A Somber Disquiet
24 September 2016
Somber: dark; gloomy
Disquiet: anxiety; worry
These two words were used to describe the overall atmosphere of a set of photographs (not as a cohesive mini-collection but individual, independent images) I submitted to the LensCulture Magnum Photography Awards 2016 contest that included a review of my work. Even though these words have negative denotations and connotations, they were meant to be positive with regards to the review; and I take them as positive.
I, as do many photographer probably, often struggle to describe my “style” of photography and have wondered what words other people form in their minds to describe my photography. I was very pleased to receive the review and the care this person (it was anonymous) took in reviewing my work as a set and individually. The words that grabbed my attention where the two defined above when describing the atmosphere of the five images and the phrase “ambiguous narratives”.
I like those words; somber, disquiet, ambiguous. I think the reviewer was spot on and appreciate him/her providing some vocabulary to describe my style. Describing my own style is quite difficult; probably difficult for any artist. I believe it valuable to receive such vocabulary from someone else removed from my work but in the field.
Of course this vocabulary is based on only five images that are all in black and white (the one above was not one of them), so the visual influence with regard to “somber” is evident. I think if I sent in some of my colour images, a slightly different word would be used. My colour images have become more vibrant and “punchy” as of late due to me changing camera systems (from Canon to Fujifilm) and the easy access to Fujifilm’s quirky and punchy Velvia film profile that is available in camera or automatically becomes available in post-processing in Adobe Lightroom when processing images from Fujifilm cameras.
Even though about 75% of my images end up being in black and white, I do like colour, and I like colour to be vibrant and a bit quirky, just like Velvia. Colour should be fun in my opinion, so “somber” may not be the appropriate term to use for my colour work, but I would still like them to be ‘disquieting’ with ‘ambiguous narratives’. Having said that, the literal dark aspect of somber may fit since I like my images a bit darker – both color and black and white. Something that saturation, and more specifically Velvia, does to an image (increases contrast; blackens the blacks – but also brightens the whites).
I’ll still experiment (thinking of adding actual film photography to the mix at some point) and know that styles change. It will be interesting to see what it morphs into a few months to a year from now.