Lines moving everywhere. Solid lines of concrete. Dancing lines of water. Flowing lines of air. Lines defining space, guiding visual exploration, enticing speculation inside and outside the image. What to do with all the lines?
Master photographers teach it is my job to make order out of the chaos of a visual world, to construct a composition that simplifies for the viewer what the scene contains in content and story. But do all scenes require that? Is it respectful of a scene that revels in chaos to boil its essence down to a few defining gestures? Shouldn’t some scenes reject simplicity in order to scream at the viewer, “here’s a dynamic reality you must take as it is?”
It’s the feeling I get every time I visit this place. The Water Garden was designed to promote a sense of other worldliness, a liquid oasis in the middle a city’s heat sink. A flowing, moving, dynamic environment to contrast the stolid, grounded structures of steel, concrete and glass that surround it. There is a movement throughout the park that is at odds with the hustle/bustle of the enveloping city, a movement defined by water, not human, traffic.
Stepping in this place you’re initially confused as the urban clock we’ve attuned ourselves to suddenly becomes confronted by the more primeval rhythm of water responding the the prompting of gravity, to seek the lowest point of ground and the highest point of entropy. The water sprays around you, flows beside you, swirls beneath you – each action generating a sound we distantly recall but initially can’t place. It’s the puzzled feeling you get when first standing on the seashore – you recognize the wave sounds on the beach but you don’t know how they fit into your current existence.
Taking more time to pay attention and the confusion fades. The sound of water moving is a natural one for our species and our brain will latch onto it as an expected stimulus. Much like some phrases of a symphony that just feel right, the seemingly chaotic sound of the water suddenly clicks as we accept this is the real nature of reality, not the contrived one we’ve built just beyond the boundaries of this place.
Why should a photograph deny this? What value to the viewer is there to simplify this reality, to deny the visual manifestation of the expected aural experience? No, this composition demands less simplicity – it requires the multi-directional distraction of lines intersecting in many angles. It must show the contrast of dynamic flow against solid foundation. It is the nature of this place.
Follow some rules, break some rules. That’s the nature of photography.