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Friday, December 5

Phallocentric Composition



Sorry for the post title but what else could I call it? These three pics were off the third roll of TMax 400 I shot on the Nikon F100 and I posted them together here because they obviously have a similar look and feel to them. It was only when I saw them one above the other that I immediately thought of Tom Hanks in The DaVinci Code - that part where he illustrates the male phallus by tenting his hands to make a triangular shape.


The composition in these three pics follows that exact phallus symbol quite strikingly. Thinking back, a lot of photographs I take do. The last photograph on this page makes the point most emphatically. So what does that mean? Am I trying to assert my male dominance or am I just a bit of dick? Answers on a postcard. Haha. Seriously, though, photography is a bit like a dream in that it seems to provide a release for sub-conscious feelings and thoughts that find expression in every day life more difficult. How else do we explain how different photographers see subjects differently?

There must be some underlying impression, sensitivity or perception that rises to the surface when we're trying to make sense of a jumbled-up world and rearrange it into a cohesive orderliness within the confines of a camera's viewfinder. Unless, of course, you're using a Leica and can justifiably expect the world to rearrange itself for you.

Enough of this psycho-babble, I hear you cry. And I agree. Let's get on with the usual, down-to-earth stuff. The first pic was another where a kind seagull helped the composition. I find that if I concentrate really hard and focus my brain's alpha waves on a fixed point in space, a bird will inevitably fly onto that spot. Works for me. Of course, you could also use the other approach which involves standing around for so long that a bird is just bound to occupy that area of sky. Whatever gets the job done, I say.

When I was a digital abuser, I would have just taken the shot and copied and pasted a bird onto that spot from my folder of flying critters and you'd have been none the wiser. And they say there's no difference between the merits of digital and film photography (what do you mean I could scan the film in Photoshop and do the same thing? Have you no sense of decency?).

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The pic above came after about a 25 minute wait in the car.  I was driving past this stairway on the esplanade in Arbroath and spotted how the tarmac shape at the bottom was like a reflection of the top of the stairs and the handrail. Or a phallus and chalice, as Robert Langdon might have said. The weather was typically drizzly for this time of year and there were very few people out and about but I reckoned that someone would have to put in an appearance at some point.

I sat in the car for ages with the window half open and the F100 resting on it as I waited for a figure or two to walk into shot and provide a bit of scale. What I really wanted was someone with a Big Black Umbrella to walk across the top of the scene rather than coming down the stairs but, on this occasion, my alpha waves failed me. Eventually, just as I was getting fed up, a couple appeared out of nowhere to make the wait sort of worthwhile.

The next rainy day when we have some free time, I'm going to re-shoot this pic and Cath (she doesn't know it yet) will be taking a Big Black Umbrella with her...

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The final pic is a little hut next to a pitch and putt course at the waterfront where, in the summer, an attendant doles out golf clubs and balls. I've often thought that it looked quite cute and had a nice symmetry about it but I've never been moved to photograph it. The reflections on the wet tarmac changed things. As with the other shots, it was taken using the 85mm f1.8 AF-D Nikkor which necessitated me standing at the entrance to a car park and keeping a constant watch on the traffic.

As you can probably tell from the pic, the rain was still on and I was getting wetter and wetter - I was waiting for birds again, you see. As I'd driven past, a swarm of small birds had flitted across the sky at the back of the scene and I thought it would be great to capture them in that formation again.

My alpha wave beam intensifier had, by this time, been short-circuited by the damp so I was forced to resort - like an ordinary person - to the waiting game. That didn't last long, though, as there's a big difference between waiting in a warm car and standing in the middle of the road without a coat on. Anyway, it appeared the birds had been scunnered by the weather and rushed back to their nests or perhaps the nearby McDonalds leaving me to cut a somewhat sad, solitary and soggy figure. Not to mention one in danger of being run over by an SUV.

The first couple of shots I took of the hut excluded the kerb at the bottom of the pic as its inclusion spoiled the simple symmetry. But then I thought what's wrong with breaking up the symmetry just a little? And, anyway, I liked the curve of the kerb at the left-hand side.

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I had imagined that this roll of TMax might have yielded some of the more graphic shots I'm on the look-out for just now but those that were on it were, I have to confess, failures. They were OK technically but completely lacking in other departments - mainly the ones that matter. Here are a few to give you a flavour:




Nothing there to get excited about. A case of so far, yet so far. However, there was one pic on the roll with subject matter that must rank as the most interesting and compelling I've seen in a long while. Et voila:


So that's the tale of my third roll of TMax 400. The successful shots were the type I usually take and not the graphic ones I'd hoped for but it's early days. And old habits die hard...

7 comments :

Herman Sheephouse said...

Very funny Bruce and as usual some great pictures that are very much YOU!.
My brain can never make a seagull appear in the right place though . . .

Alan Jarvis said...

I think you need a long spell in a dark room!

David M said...

I'm not altogether sure about your subtle Freudian interpretations. Usually, they are much cruder – lighthouses and 600mm lenses. Further comment would be unsuitable before nine o'clock.
May I offer some ordinary comments on two other images.
The little kiosk is lovely and you were certainly right to include the kerb. If you exclude it, you get a perfectly literal picture of the kiosk. Put it back and suddenly, it's a place – curved roof, curved white barriers and a curved kerb all echoing each other. And a reflection, of course, for free. The scribbly trees in the background are a bonus.
The very white pipe, with two smaller ones and the shadow of a tree (or a photographer?) has a competing bright white at the extreme left-hand edge. Crop this off, right to the edge of the shadow and, I believe, this is what your brain actually saw.
I do like the Shadow of the Alien picture.
Oops! Three other pictures.
In practice, you seem to be more concerned with birds than phalluses, perhaps you could claim to be an avicentric photographer

JF Bonnin said...

I do apologize, my elderly brain system (EBS) might not work properly, or be correctly connected to my eye-viewing system (EVS) : but I am absolutely unable to see any phallus, or phallic allusion, in these very well composed pictures.

Folker said...

Sorry, I can´t see a phallus symbol either!?
Are you allright, Bruce? ;-)

morris1800 said...

No need to see a psychologist Bruce. The answer to seeing phallus symbols in your shots is in your last image. Its obvious from your shadow that the kilt you are wearing is far too short for this time of year :-)

Bruce Robbins said...

Good one Andy! By coincidence, I was getting fitted for a hire kit on Saturday for a wedding...