Experimental and traditional photos – different, yet similar

It’s interesting for a photographer (though, at my experience level, I feel sheepish about calling myself by that title) to step back and look at his/her own work as a group sometimes. Looking at several pieces at once can help you to reflect on how you’re progressing, and it also tells you something about yourself if you’re paying attention.

If you stop by this blog from time to time, you know I love photography. Below are some images I’ve captured (relatively) recently. Click on the thumbnails below to see full versions of each pic. These images are interesting to me in their contrast of styles. One is what you might call experimental and the other two are very traditional … some might even call them cliche. I’m drawn to both ends of that spectrum. I like things that are funky and off-beat, but I also like the pastoral and literal.

"Ethanol and Aliens"      

What does bother me in some of contemporary artistic expressions is the embrace of the dark, ugly, chaotic and macabre. While my images do sometimes have a starkness about them – which I think can have it’s own kind of sublimity (or something like that – maybe “beauty” would be a better word) – I really recoil at the crudeness and darkness of some avant-garde work. If you look at the images above, I think you’ll see some of that repulsion in my work. These images all have a sense of joy even though at least two of them, I think, have elements of longing, mystery or starkness about them. For me, each image I take is an act of worship. Here are some thoughts on these images.

  • Image #1 –  Title: “Ethanol and Aliens.” This is an ethanol plant near Casselton Minn. I zoomed while taking a long exposure, creating a trail of lights. Even though it’s fairly abstract, it definitely has some symmetry of composition. I like that, as it speaks to the order and purposefulness of the universe. Also, despite the starkness of the night sky and field, there is joy and light here as well. These also speak to the nature of ultimate reality.
  • Image #2 – Untitled. While E&A speaks to the purposefulness and order of the universe through abstraction, this piece speaks to that same idea very literally. Of course, this is apparent in the natural symmetry of the leaves, but, more subtly, it’s also there in the cooperation of the yellow of the leaf, the green of its veins and the blue of the sky, all combining for a unified beauty that is greater than the sum of the parts.
  • Image #3 – Untitled. I suppose that the photo through the window has been done a great deal (some might say “done to death.”). But my hope is that it is still effective. I was out taking pictures at an old abandoned farm house and barn near Gary, Minn., recently when a woman drove up to bring supper to her husband who was working the field. You can see them together in the cab of the tractor. I was in the barn when I took this photo of them through a window, and I think that perspective reinforces the idea that we are sort of sneaking a peak at a moment of kindness and care between a husband and wife. The muted-but-present golds in the field work well with the green of the tractor and blue of the sky. While I don’t mean for this image to be overly sappy and Pollyanna, I don’t mind if it’s a bit nostalgic because, even though nostalgia can be deceptive and misleading, I would suggest that the longing that it stirs up points to something of the divine. Perhaps it’s something similar to what C.S. Lewis described in a passage of “Surprised by Joy.”


Hope you enjoyed the images. And I’d be very intersted to hear your feedback. If you like these pics, you can see more of my work in the blog posts here > http://shane.areavoices.com/tag/shanepics.