A quest for the ultimate, beautiful, meaningful picture

Close-Up and (Im-)Personal

Getting close to my idea of what makes a picture worth showing, is picturing a (little) bit of reality, something you and I and everyone may walk past daily, but that you never looked at in this way. Close-up and macro photography of inanimate, impersonal objects holds this type of charm for me. ‘This way’ and ‘charm’ are meant to avoid the word ‘beauty’. Of course, an object may be beautiful in obvious ways, but I think I often prefer the hidden beauty of decay, of past glory.

Take this close-up of some kind of agricultural machine, shot in the neighbourhood of an old shed in a rural part of Holland. You maybe never saw how it had ‘lived’ and worked, grown old, used, worn-down, and rusted. It may be paradoxical that this has to do with the passage of time: how can you show time in a still picture? The stillness and restfulness of this machine part is emphasised in the simple and quiet compostion: in a single plane, parallel to the plane of the picture and with diffuse natural light. Two bolt-like things form an imaginary, visual, practically horizontal line. To the right there then is a vertical line to break–and in that way at the same time stress–the horizontal main line in the composition. A little bit of Mondriaan in a real-world object.

Yet the rust and wear show clearly that this thing has been out and about for a long time. The bolts or axes or whatever they are, are completely rusted and can never be undone anymore. Moreover, in the composition, the imagined horizontal line between the bolts is not quite horizontal and that gives some movement to the picture; movement is time. So both object and composition tell about time, its passage, and what this has done to the object.

That, in turn, makes the inanimate object something personal to me, worth looking at, worth showing to you.

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