Orange overdose.

According to those who know, we are instinctively drawn to warm colours. Red apparently, symbolises life and vitality, and those colours closely allied to red – orange for example – nurture equally positive feelings. I’m not in tune with the psychological and spiritual associations of warm colours, but it would seem that unwittingly, I too seek out warm-coloured images – specifically silhouettes.

At a recent talk I was asked why I photographed so many silhouettes and in truth, I wasn’t aware I did. Thinking about the question on the way home, I was initially embarrassed: Had I been overloading audiences with orange and black graphics for years? Do you know what? I think I have.

Looking back, my fondness for silhouettes may be rooted in a desire to break the f8-front lit-big-in-the-frame wildlife portrait. In fact I can remember a friend of mine showing a silhouette of a crested tit on a workshop only to be asked why the flash hadn’t gone off! I think more recently however, it’s nothing more complicated than an affection for clean graphic shapes that whilst recognisable, hold something back from the viewer, inviting them to identify what, where, when, how.

Whilst silhouettes are hardly radical thesedays, it would seem that they are not for the photographic purist and that’s fine. I’m afraid I can’t help myself – get a subject on a ridge against a moody sky and it’s wind up the shutter speed for maximum under-exposure. The pleasure derived more than warrants six of the best from the Photo-Police. It would seem I’m a silhouette junkie.

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5 thoughts on “Orange overdose.

  1. I dont think you should feel embarrassed.

    The fact you were apparently unaware of this ‘approach’ is the key thing for me – which suggests you were responding creatively to the subjects and scenes as you found them.

    If it was a conscious approach the uncharitable amongst us might suggest you were actually creatively stifled and stuck in a graphic groove and had few other creative options.

    The truth is that making good silhouettes is really really difficult. The first thing you lose is subject detail, and that gives your graphic awareness skills a reality check – that detail-rich subject that might work for the viewer because its easy to ‘read’ becomes a block of dark. You then need an eye for the ‘form’ and ‘symmetery’ and I would suggest also the ‘elegance’ of the subject in order to shape that block into something comprehensible. That requires subject knowledge.

    This becomes even more difficult with multiple subjects – you have to be able to compose several detail-less ‘things’ into some semblance of order relative to each other, but with each individual ‘thing’ retaining some essence of its true nature. That requires artistic skills.

    And to do all this in the field, in real time, as subjects move, and weather intrudes, and your shifting background of mist and sky and cloud does everything except the things you expect – well that makes it all much more difficult. That requires perseverance.

    I’d suggest this approach is a bit like haiku in poetry – its stripping back whats you’re trying to say by using fewer words, with a set ‘form’ and which is incredibly difficult, but when you pull it off it usually says far more about the subject than any long-form, multi-line, multi-verse rambling ode.

    Silhouettes are easy. Doing them as well, and as consistently, as you do them is really really hard.

  2. Hey, don’t knock it, if it works – they look great to me. Gives us mere mortals something to aspire to. So what happened at the weekend then Mr. C……there I was, sat in front of the tv watching Countryfile, waiting for a great lesson in all things photographic and you didn’t even turn up with your camera!!! Call yourself a photographer Cairns!!! LOL
    ……..still Andy had plenty to say…………….cough!

  3. Hi Phil

    I was robbed guvnor! As you no doubt concluded, they edited out 99% of my (obviously boring) contribution. To be fair I thought Andy and Guy were really good.

    Thanks for your thoughts guys – it’s good to talk!

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