Making Metaphors from Decay and Metamorphosis
There’s a long tradition in fine art photography where nature and still life genres come together. It’s the kind of photography that deals with mortality.
All Photographs Are About People
It might be an image of a dead animal or simply an image of fallen leaves near the end of autumn. While often melancholy and some times morbid the best of these images, to my mind, are those that deal with the reality of life and death.
Photographs That Transcend Subject Matter
From the point of view of a fine artist the subject matter is not always what's most important. Great photography goes beyond subject matter to explore notions of meaning and metaphor.
It was sad to see this wallaby skull lying on the ground in an abandoned gold mining area in Central Victoria, Australia. I know not whether its demise was due to natural causes or otherwise. In any case sadness gave way to a deeper enquiry as to the nature of things, which lead to the making of the above image.
Photography Is The Search For Luminance
To make the image I placed the wallaby skull on top of an old rusty piece of metal which I then placed on to the bonnet of my car. I had a bottle of water which I used to wash down the skull. It was very hot so the water evaporated very quickly, but the skull began to glow as it reflected light from above.
Because the light was so bright I made sure to move my car into open shade prior to setting up the image. This allowed the light to illuminate the subject without burning away the finer details within the skull. A sense of luminosity, where the subject seems to transmit rather than reflect light was central to the image I had in my mind's eye.
Photography Is Where Opposites Collide
I made a series of images in the South Park Street Cemetery in Kolkata, India. Without wanting to be disrespectful the cemetery is itself a metaphor for the city of Kolkata (i.e., Calcutta). It's beautiful, it's atmospheric and it's in a state of rampant decay. If ever a city spoke to me about the fall, without the trees, it's Kolkata.
It was a very hot day that found me stumbling around the South Park Street Cemetery which is full of memorials to politicians, military officers and other notables living in Kolkata during the time of the British Raj.
I’ve long believed in photography's roll to explore the power of duality: the juxtaposition of two opposites (e.g., life and death, beauty and horror) to evoke powerful associations and metaphors for the fine artist.
As long as the subject is dealt with in a respectable manner, I believe such images deserve their place within the fine art tradition. In the process of making metaphors from decay and metamorphosis such images cause us to think about the bigger picture. And the more time we give to such pursuits the richer our lives will become.