Visiting Christchurch for a few days back in December we hit some seriously hot weather. I had a long walk through a paddock trying to get some nice views of the river in Tai Tapu, with the sun burning down and the heat radiating up from the ground – when I went through my shots later I was struck by how cool and peaceful this one felt. Ironically, infrared seems to lend itself to a cool tonality – black water and sky might have something to do with it – but lately I have been looking for simple shapes and lines too, and trying to reduce everything down to uncomplicated compositions.
3 thoughts on “Hottest day of the year”
Because your IR photography is so different in appearance than ‘daylight’ photography (what is the correct terminology?), the reality of everything depicted by the IR camera goes right out the window. This image looks like a photo of a small scale model construction using cotton balls and white plastic christmas tree branches, not a photo of a river taken on a hot day in New Zealand as you describe it. To me, this image is all about fabrication and has nothing to do with the scenario you depict. My brain is wrestling with trying to identify what I am actually looking at while at the same time happily slipping sideways into tangential interpretations.
Take a look at photographer Adam Makarenko’s photographs of his miniature constructions and see if you get what I mean.
Looking at his pictures, I am constantly searching around for the tell-tale evidence that all is not as it seems to be at first glance, because the images always looks ‘off’, no matter how closely they resemble something that is not ‘off’ but ‘real’. I find myself going down a similar road with the IR images. Your IR photos literally depict the real world at real scale, and in a real but unfamiliar tonal gradation, but the images appear to be tableaus that represent fake vistas that are made of discordant materials arranged to look like real things.
You are right to focus on simple (but powerful) shapes and lines. These elements become super strong when used in IR photography because recognizable ‘narrative’ features of the image disappear and the presence of the formal and the graphic takes over. I find myself being led by the graphic and then having to back-up to try and figure out what is happening. You really pull the narrative rug out from under the viewer with these images.
I think it’s that gulf between ‘reality’ and resulting image that makes it a sort of exaggerated version of what every photograph is – we’re always peering into a constructed view, through a lens, but the unexpected tone relationships and optical distortions can heighten the sense of fabrication. Someone told me the circular frame made it hard to engage with the scene or appreciate the composition, but I’m happy with that reaction – I feel like you need to move in close, you mention backing up, figuring out – I like a photo that invites some involvement from the viewer.
I agree, especially about the constant balance between ‘reality’ and fabrication. It is interesting that the rectangular image, a formal visual trope that we have adopted from painting, is understood by people more easily than the circle when it is the circle that more closely represents how we actually see with our eyes (our field of vision is more like a jelly bean).