I came across a beautiful photograph of a statue named ‘The Veiled Virgin’. I was mesmerized by that photograph. Lost in it. The cloth on the face seemed so real. But, was the photograph beautiful?
The Veiled Virgin was a statue sculpted sometime in the early 1850s by an Italian sculptor Giovanni Strazza. He created a masterpiece. The veil carved in the stone itself feels transparent and outlines the facial features in a flawless manner. Yes, the statue is beautiful. I came across its photograph today and spent a lot of time admiring the ‘statue’. So, does that make the photograph beautiful? The photographer had photographed the statue with a short-tele lens and shared it on social media as his bonafide art work.
The photograph did make me spend a lot of time looking at it but what I was admiring was the statue. Does photographing a beautiful photograph create a beautiful artwork? I don’t know. You have to tell me.
In fact, just a few days back, I saw a beautiful photograph of a beautiful painting done by a painter near by home. The painting was almost in the impressionist style of the distant Himalayan peaks and a village in the valley in front. The painting was lovely. I admired its photograph for a long time. Did that make the photograph beautiful or was it just an almost truthful depiction of the original painting and I was actually admiring the original painting and not the photograph?
This brings me to yet another train of thought.
I see wonderful portraits of truly expressive faces. Some happy and some sad. Faces that give an insight to their soul. Faces that have wrinkles, each one of which tells more than the people themselves would. Are those faces beautiful or are the photographs of those faces beautiful?
What about landscapes? Did the nature create those beautiful scenes or were they made beautiful when someone captured a photograph and brought the scene to the attention of the viewers?
(Alpenglow on Himalayan peak)
Yes, we photographers, see lots of lines, angles, interplay of light and shade… a complete composition!… when we click the shutter release. I can understand catching that fleeting moment when the eyes twinkle or a smile breaks out on a face, catching that perfect moment when the slanting sunlight lights up the beautiful landscape. What I don’t understand is how a photograph or a painting or a statue be considered a beautiful photograph. Maybe truthful but not beautiful per se. But then, if they are not considered beautiful then does that mean the original painting of the statue is not beautiful?
These are just some musings of a mind, maybe because of medications, maybe because of the lack of sleep. I am in isolation (self-quarantine) and yesterday there was a thunderstorm that kept waking me up. I am on medications suggested by half a dozen different doctors just in case it is the notorious flu. To be safe I am following all of them and even the social media knowledge.
Coming back to the topic, what about bird photographers? Why is it that a technically fine photograph of a colorful barbet or parrot gets more likes than an equally fine photograph of a crow? The subject makes the photograph but when the subject in itself is so beautiful, what are we creating by our cameras? Yes, getting a sharp and well lit photograph of a bird requires a lot of skill and technology. I am not questioning the skills of photographers, any photographers! What makes me wonder is how and when we say when a photograph is beautiful. This is food for thought… maybe, I’ll just lie down, take some rest and listen to the blue-whistling thrush that has been living outside my window for the past couple of years.
(Green-backed tit. Yet another interesting bird that keeps me company when I am in the garden)