I have this hopelessly romantic notion that ‘spirit of place’ is a metaphysical reality; that as humans we can be in a place and somehow communicate with our surroundings, allow ourselves to feel the emotion that’s wrapped up in the ‘spiritual energy’ of any given location.
logo

Subject, Photographer, Viewer


‘Dordogne Barn’, Dordogne, France
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L USM @ 70mm, 1/30 sec @ f/11, ISO 50
LEE Polariser filter.
Manfrotto 441 tripod, Manfrotto 322RC2 Heavy Duty Grip Ball Head.
Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.

“A spring meadow celebrating new beginnings, vibrant greenery, cherry blossom and the iconic barn symbolizing man’s harnessing of nature.”

Subject, Photographer, Viewer

I made this simple image of a barn among trees in a spring meadow during a trip to the Dordogne several years ago. I had spent a particularly relaxing and creative week shooting landscapes while travelling south through France. This picturesque scene was overflowing with visual metaphors. A spring meadow celebrating new beginnings, vibrant greenery, cherry blossom and the iconic barn symbolizing man’s harnessing of nature. The scene was so beautiful that it demanded little photographic manipulation. All that was required of me, was to balance the composition and attach a polarizing filter to reduce glare from the trees and optimize saturation. The image was made in an instant, but for me, it captured a whole season, and seemingly with very little photographic input.

When I returned from the trip, I had over a thousand images to sort through. I eventually processed around a dozen, but this was not one of my favourites. I felt it was a simple recording of reality, rather than what I perceived to be an accomplished photographic representation and it therefore seemed less worthy of attention. Curiously, despite my initial indifference, this image has grown in appeal so much that I now have it on my own wall at home.

We can think of all photographs as a relationship balanced between three elements; the subject, the photographer and the viewer. This triad is most apparent in creative photography where we use a multitude of methods to creatively shape, alter and render our subjects to transfer our own emotions through to the viewer. With the advent of digital photography, we have unprecedented freedom to experiment, to manipulate and let our creativity flourish. While it may be admirable to be so emotionally honest, an unavoidable consequence of artistic interference is a shift in balance away from the ‘subject’ and towards the ‘photographer’ revealing more of the photographer’s personality but a less accurate representation of reality.

By my lack of photographic interference, I have removed much of ‘myself’ from this image and the final interaction is left principally to the subject and the viewer. Nature has presented such a beautiful scene that it would feel selfish to introduce alterations.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission.