Back To Black


When I took the shot of the man in the jeans and the painting at which he is looking, I could see the funny side of someone looking at a plain black canvas. From memory, I think I moved around in the gallery to be in position to take a shot when someone stood in front of it.

The painting is not totally black, as you can perhaps see. Here below is a crop that shows it better. There doesn’t seem to be a lot in the painting, though.

I don’t know the man and I have no idea what is going through his head, but I am reading body language and considering how absorbed, versus how self conscious, he appears to be.

It made me think of two states of being. In one, the person predominately asks of him or herself, ‘How am I in relation to my surroundings?’

In the other state of being, the person is absorbed in the thing, the surroundings, the people, and asks ‘How is the thing, my surroundings, the people?’

How did we humans come to be so unnatural in the world?

You’ve probably seen the hilarious videos of animals failing to make the jump. And in ‘real life’ I once saw a sparrow miss a branch it flew to. It did something very ‘human’ after it scrabbled to get its balance after it had missed its footing. It settled down and then preened itself with great ostentation. But even in the most epic fails, animals seem to be ‘in nature’ and never divorced from it.

11 thoughts on “Back To Black

  1. The trees are literally alive right now with young birds learning not only how to fly, but what kind of branch makes a good perch (or not!) and I’m thinking that your bird who ‘missed’ is quite likely to have been one of those… (It can be quite entertaining to watch this show of ungainly acrobatics during the ‘awkward teenage stage’; ) But, as to the ‘ostentation’ of its preening afterward, I see the absolute imperative of having one’s feathers in order (to be warm, healthy and able to fly away at a seconds notice) and perhaps (in the similar way that having the wind blow one’s hair against the normal direction) it might also be quite uncomfortable?
    “Anthropomorphisation is, literally, the application of human (anthropos) form (morpho) to animals and is, essentially, the attribution of human characteristics to animals.” Source: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/335946471_You're_anthropomorphising_But_is_it_all_that_bad

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      1. Well, while animals are certainly not human, we are all animals of a sort, and thinking like the animal is usually more helpful to all. Working with the Bees, in particular – what do they want or need in both the long term (what would they do naturally if they were a feral hive?) and the short – specifically how do I keep them as happy as possible while still getting my work done?; )

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  2. And back to the photograph at hand… Your observer is so engrossed in what he’s looking at, his torso is actually tilted slightly to the left (assuming that the floor and painting are actually level and parallel to each other; )

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    1. And – speaking of observing the painting – is it possible that I can see the subtle outlines of a row of columns on the right and buildings and other landscape features off to the left?

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    2. They are level and parallel. It is one of the aspects of lenses and the translation from 3D to 2D that intrigues me. And it is inevitable if the camera is ‘off to one side’ as it were, of the subject.

      One of my favourite street photographers is Gary Winogrand, who has taken some shots that are very telling of human behaviour. He explained once that he angled his camera to keep the people upright, and let the rest take care of itself. I hear that sentence in my ear sometimes when I am photographing.

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      1. And thank you for this as well, David! It is one of my greatest frustrations when taking photographs of the gardens in our back yard where the board-and-batten covered garage, an interlocking brick sidewalk and weathered-board fence all intersect…. Invariably something looks out of alignment or off-kilter… :/

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  3. So funny! The painting does seem to have more going for it than meets the eye initially. It demands attention! What you noted about animals is true too. I’ve watched my cat jump for something several times and miss, slipping with much embarrassment.

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