I like small things, and I like detail. I’ve never been one of those photographers who loves to shoot big wide scenes with lots happening in them. No, I’ve always been drawn to moving in close. Things look different up close. In fact they often look like other things. They certainly don’t look much like themselves.
Minor White said that we shouldn’t just shoot things for ‘what they are’ but for ‘what else they are’. This can be hard to see sometimes when we look at the big picture, but much easier when we go in close.
One of the things that stops us ‘seeing’ artistically is that we have a tendency to name and categorise things, and once we’ve done that we stop properly seeing them anymore. That’s what usually goes wrong when people learn to draw; they mentally label the thing they’re drawing and then they draw what they know about that thing, not what they actually see in front of them. So when they draw a chair, they might draw all four legs because they know it has four legs, instead of noticing that they can only see three.
It happens in photography too. We take pictures of ‘things’ instead of looking to see what else is there that might be more interesting. So we see a tree and take a tree picture, but our image could gain extra depth if we made it instead about light, or colour, or lines, or loneliness. When we start looking for what else is there, we start producing better photographs. And it’s much easier to forget what something is, and see what else it is, when we move in close.
The photo above is of an abalone shell, but to me it looks a little like a spaceship travelling through an exotic galaxy. In Elizabeth's photo, below, we can see a whole cosmos in a small piece of ice.
"William Blake saw ‘the world in a grain of sand’. It can be seen in many such things, for in the smallest cells are reflections of the largest. And in photography, through an interplay of scales, a whole universe within a universe can be revealed."Gilly, of The Camera Points Both Ways
cosmos by elizabeth glass