On visual style

Photography is the perfect mix of creativity and technical detail. As I am very left-brained I have always understood how to shoot something more clearly than what I should shoot.

To balance this up, I recently got the chance to spend an afternoon at the National Gallery in London. If you’ve been to Trafalgar Square, you know where the National Gallery is. The art on show is stunning, and I was particularly keen on looking at technique and visual style.

We started with renaissance art, which I would summarise as being very detailed depictions of biblical scenes. (My wife would add “scantily clad” to my description.) After an hour and a half, I was feeling a bit uninspired and I went with my (now bored) wife to get a latté and a slice of cake, and as they had carrot cake, carrot cake it was.

I headed back up to look at more modern art, and headed into the 16th and 17th Century art and came across Rubens‘ paintings. A beautiful landscape, with gorgeous use of colour and shadow. The painting next to it had very similar style, and I looked at it and decided it was also by Rubens. I was satisfied to read the card and find it was another Rubens landscape. The third painting along afforded the same satisfaction.

Behind me, I saw another painting, another landscape, but this was different. Trees and sky and the rest, but different contrast, different colours, different shadows. It couldn’t be a Rubens, and I was satisfied when I read the card to find it was a Jordaens (no relation).

Some (perhaps more right brained) photographers have already developed visual styles to the point where people recognise their photographs before knowing who took them. My goal over the next few months is to take photographs of a style that I want to shoot, and I’ll be letting you know a little more in the near future.

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