Aspects of expression

Paul Gallagher is a large format photographer who paints in shades of grey and in his book ‘Aspects of Expression’ he explores what it is that motivates him to photograph in black and white. The book is divided into four sections – light, emotion, vision and expression – and his images are accompanied by brief blocks of text in which he offers advice, personal thoughts and musings on image making. One interesting feature of this book is that for some of his images, he takes you through some of the subtle changes he made – digitally – to produce the final image. Yet, this is not a ‘how to do’ photography book in the technical sense and nor does he seek to advocate a particular workflow. Rather, its focus is very much on making you think about what you are photographing, why and how to develop an ability to express yourself and your emotions through the medium of photography.

The smooth transition in tones in his images is quite beautiful and, despite some of the images being spread across two pages (making it difficult to appreciate some of them fully), the layout of the book is clean and elegant. Although it would be difficult to single out any one image, one I particular liked is ‘Traigh Eais’ taken in Barra, Scotland (page 60) of wind-swept marram grasses atop a sand dune overlooking a pristine sandy beach with the headland in the distance above which soft grey clouds are moving ‘graciously’ (as he puts it).

At first I found it easy to miss the subtleties of the images presented. The lesson I took from this was that I have to be prepared to look, not just see. This requires greater focus, attention to detail and conscious effort but the reward should be a longer lasting sense of enjoyment and an appreciation of what may be lacking in my photography. An example might be the idea that deciding where to place the shadows and the light can play a significant role in composing a photograph – particularly in black and white photography; in other words, allow the light to dictate the image, not the subject. This realisation can apply in life too – slow down and be present rather than always rushing ahead to the next goal. Of course, that’s a cliche but one worth paying attention to. After all, ‘A poor life this if, full of care//We have no time to stand and stare.’ (‘Leisure’ by William Henry Davies). Perhaps too, in doing so I will better appreciate how to express myself through my photography.

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~ by paulsidle on January 1, 2010.

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