Friday, 6 February 2015

Harvest of 2011 Part Three - The 'Something Else' Power of Symbols

Harvest of 2011 links

Harvest of 2011 continues... previous parts are linked just above.

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These are some more of my favourite 2011 images. This time I'll be writing not so much about how the image looks, or was composed, but instead dealing more with how our minds make sense of the pictures, attaching meanings in some quite astounding ways.

The images here include text, numbers and symbols - always signifiers for something else, something that someone wants you to know or think. As such, they have to be handled carefully in photographs, so as not to rupture or overwhelm careful composition.

4580 - Totland, England, 2011
When I include a signifier like text in an image, it's mainly as another compositional element. But it can't be denied that including visual language like the word 'RAMBLER' unavoidably adds something else. It's that 'something else' that I always bear in mind when including text, numbers or symbols. Although this image has a lot to visual information, the mind is initially only thinking 'RAMBLER' and the picture therefore takes a few moments to settle down. The word itself does offer up a clue as to how the image could be interpreted - rather than cluttering the meaning, words may extend it.

4423 - London, England, 2011
Whilst RAMBLER was a part of the image, sometimes my use of text plays a more major role. This picture becomes a little jarring, almost like an optical illusion, with the simplest of means.

4114 - London, England, 2011
Here is another image that plays with expectations of text. 'NO' is usually a precursor to another word, the start of a prohibition. By again looking past the text into the image itself, we can see that this 'NO' isn't that, and never was. Stripped of it's original purpose, it now resembles instead a blunt graffiti-esque statement.

4155 - London, England, 2011
The more I think about the messages in the environment, the more they become abstracted for me - and in the context of thinking about text, hopefully I have allowed you to see this image differently. For me, it is a very nourishing picture that gains more meaning the more you time you give it.

4171 - London, England, 2011
4352 - Ange, Sweden, 2011
4361 - Blomsterstigen, Sweden, 2011
Numbers are of course equally significant in the environment. These three pictures have very little in common visually, but all feature a simple two digit number. Each number delivers a different message to us, discernable by context based on our own previous experience of how they are used. An address, an instruction, a label.

We can see how much work our minds put in by simply flipping two of these upside down -

Perhaps the effect is a little lessened by seeing the originals above directly before, but you can see how the numbers become just shapes, or perhaps you automatically redefine them as 'LI' and 'OE' even though this makes little sense.

4440 - Sevenoaks, England, 2011
This well known symbol is clear in its meaning - it's that very meaning that the photograph plays upon. The sign becoming overgrown by the seemingly gentler yet absolutely overwhelming force of nature, the clash of colour reflecting the conflict, and perhaps a further meaning warning against incursion into nature. A simple image lent so much more by symbolism, and by the deeper meaning each viewer brings.

4563 - Needles, England, 2011
4616 - Ventnor, England, 2011
Both of these are, it could be said, strange and unusual signs. Both seem a little unreal. Clearly rockets haven't been tested for some time, but the image retains a kind of dangerous romance. It's unclear from the second image what we are looking at and the text brings interesting questions - what is this thing, how does it work? Taking these signs out of context, keeping elements out of the frame, leaves much of the interpretation to the viewer. 

4595 - Shanklin, England, 2011
 A more familiar piece of 'signage', but again not quite right.

4643 - London, England, 2011
I really enjoy the mixture of materials in this - the hard pavements, the small puddle - solid and liquid, all that's missing is GAS - provided to us in a signifier, emerging from the water, held in place by the square paving around it.

4602 - Cowes, England, 2011
Finally, a message disappearing into the water - another example of meaning left open to misinterpretation by reality.

Throughout this post I've tried to talk about meaning and interpretation - and less about colour and composition - it's worth going back and looking at the images on a purely visual level, without reading the text. You can also see them without my commentary at the Facebook gallery here. Your own commentary is very welcome there though, on each image as you choose. Alternatively, you can comment below if you want to say anything about the blog post as a whole. Please do comment, I love any kind of feedback. Also feel free to link to any of your own images or other pictures you think might be of interest.

Part Four soon. Thank you for reading! All pictures are available as limited edition prints - click here for details.

Harvest of 2011 links
Introduction - Part One
Part Two