In his blog today, Mark Graf was wondering “why a completely random leaf pile can be so peaceful” in real life, yet feel chaotic when photographed. I’ve experienced this as well. When I go for a walk, my gaze is constantly moving, absorbing everything around me in continually-shifting contexts. But when I look at that same scene as an artist, my eye immediately seeks out structure and form. I think my mind tries to limit the context of what I am seeing, so that I might begin to draw some meaning from it.
When I create a photograph, the edge of the photograph imposes a similar artificial (but unavoidable) formality on the subject. Out in the wild, there is no frame, so your mind seeks out it’s own limits. But when a limit is enforced by the borders of a photograph, your mind follows it’s lead. Order begets a desire for more order, a desire for pattern and rhythm that you don’t experience in the wild. I believe that the same thing happens in a painting, a story, or a piece of music. I love playing with this dynamic in my photography. Taking a subject out of the chaos of normal life, and imposing a formal “frame” on it, encouraging you to seek out new patterns and rhythms within it.