Under the Influence of Photography

Walter Crane“In short, photography is an excellent servant and friend, but a dangerous master. It may easily beguile us by its seductive reproductions of surface relief and lighting to think more of these qualities than any other, and to endeavour to put them in the wrong places—in places where we want colour planes rather than shadow planes, flatness and repose rather than relief, for instance, as mostly in surface decoration.”–Walter Crane

The above is from Walter Crane’s Line and Form (1900), which I’ve been reading…. and enjoying all his wonderful drawings! As an illustrator and designer, Crane is primarily discussing drawing for print c.1900 and the decorative arts. My interests are different, but I still think his ideas apply. I turn to photography because, lacking live models for extended study, I need images of people who don’t mind that I am looking at them. And if you don’t think that’s a problem, believe me, it is! Also, with photos, there’s action, variety and access to worlds I would not otherwise know. I’m aware that this does not create truly original work–the photos I draw from are not usually mine–but I haven’t given much thought to the nature of what photography presents and what I might be missing because of it. So this is interesting for me to think about.

I probably would have learned about this in art school, right?

How different are the self-portraits I’ve done based on photos from the ones I did using a mirror? Maybe self-portraits aren’t the ideal subject to examine on this point since all work is mediated by some form of optics beyond the eye. And when it comes to optics, what about my glasses? Mine correct for astigmatism as well as distance, and there is a distinct difference in work done with my distorting, naked eye. A new subject to dig into!

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