alan frost photography

in monochrome with occasional colour lapses

More questions than answers……

‘Every picture tells a story’ or so the saying goes. Well that’s true to a certain extent but some images have more to say than others. Photographs have the power to ask questions whilst not always providing answers. They are less about whether or not an image is beautiful or technically correct and more about what is it trying to say.

I am often asked what type of photographs do I like to take, and ‘landscape’ is very often one of the terms used. Well, I certainly like to be outdoors with my camera enjoying the countryside and coastline of the UK. However I don’t believe that a stunningly beautiful landscape photograph of an iconic location, captured during the golden hour has much of a story to tell. It may be a lovely view but the photograph doesn’t have much to say about the landscape itself nor does it hold my attention for very long. In fact I now see so many landscape images on social media which I can only describe as being formulaic and somewhat contrived. Perfect compositions, technically excellent and very often sharp from front to back, but all the questions I might want to ask about the landscape have already been answered. There is nothing else in the picture to hold my attention.

A few days ago I took the above image of an abandoned wheelchair by a waterside creek near to where I live. In no way can it be described as a beautiful image but it does raise more questions than it provides answers. Where is it? How did it come to be there? How long has it been there? Who was the owner? Would it still be there if I returned today?…….and so the list goes on.

I would like to quote the Australian photographer Anne Geddes

“I think that emotional content is an image’s most important element, regardless of the photographic technique. Much of the work I see these days lacks the emotional impact to draw a reaction from viewers, or remain in their hearts.”

I couldn’t put it any better myself. As I develop as a photographer I am starting to think that my work is taking me down a path where the pictures I make are hopefully more likely to draw a reaction from the viewer. Raise questions and be more open to interpretation. Perhaps they will be more accurately defined as ‘documentary images in the landscape’ and not just ‘lovely pictures of the landscape’. They are two very different genres. We shall see, but for now I would like to share a few more photographs of a similar nature.

I shall finish with another short but pertinent quote, this time by one my favourite photographers, Fay Godwin, who said :

“I like photographs which leave something to the imagination.”

4 Responses to “More questions than answers……”

  1. David A Lockwood

    I think a lot of what people expect from photography these days is instant gratification. So the formulaic image instantly fulfills that requirement.
    Unfortunately with the Internet, photography books and especially prints of images, are for many people, no longer wanted or even thought necessary. I hate to think what social historians will do in the future: gone will be the excitement of discovering a case full of old negatives.
    I love prints and can spend ages looking at what message the photographer was trying to conveying. Especially if there has been a particular choice of paper and how it was printed or toned.
    So I agree, images should leave a thought or question in the viewers mind, although sometimes it’s nice just making a photograph and sod what anyone thinks. 😎

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • alan frost

      I couldn’t agree more David with your sentiments. I love to print as there is nothing like a photograph which can be handled or indeed a book of images which you can look through at leisure. I also agree with your last comment which made me smile. All too often we start hunting for ‘likes’ which can take away the pleasure of taking photographs to please one person and one person only.

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  2. Vicki

    Just love the images above, all the more for the questions that arise in my mind at their subject matter.

    I must admit I’m weary of the World’s best Landscape images for the very reasons you have listed. One other point I notice, is the gross over-saturation of the colour. Where are all nature’s subtle hues. Having said that, I changed my cameras to a custom picture style some years ago with the colour saturation increased one notch on the slider scale. I couldn’t believe how many more followers came to my (colour) web site.

    Personally, I prefer the subtle tones of sepia or B & W, but being a fairly new amateur photographer I can’t help but be seduced by ‘followers’ expectations.

    I keep telling myself to go back to Nature’s true tones and textures, but I guess a lot of that colour in summer is merely our harsh sun in Australia.

    My old images made in the U.K.’s cooler, overcast days in the 1970s reflect the subtle tones and light much better. Even the bright blue skies and hot days in central Europe in 1976 are ‘pale’ in comparison to Australia’s summer scenes.

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    Reply
    • alan frost

      Hi Vicki. Yes you are right. I could have mnetioned ‘over saturation’ as well. Those types of images certainly have more initial impact and encourage likes and follows but after a short while you begin to think how unrealistic they look. As you know I almost exclusivley make B&W images and of course you could argue they are equallly unrealsitic!!

      I have never been to your part of the world and doubt I ever wiil, but I do understand how different the colour of the light must be.

      Thanks as always for your comments.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

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