Trial and Error: Painting

Yes, the title says painting. Sometimes you need to step out of something to get a look at what you were into in the first place.

Today I went for a short workshop watercolour painting in the dunes of the island Texel (where I am at right now). It was a fun experience, most of all. Being outside with the sun in my face ( a little)  and the wind in my back (a lot) is a great way to spend your time.

But I went there with a purpose as well; to take a step back from photography so I could reflect a bit from the medium it is so often compared to. When photography was still the new medium on the block, it seemed quite logical to compare it to painting. They both fulfilled comparable purposes and resulted in images you could frame and hang on a wall.

Today, I experienced some of the difference. Traditionally, both mediums use the visual reality as a base. A photographer can capture his view on this visual reality with his camera. He has to determine how to frame his view by (at least) picking an angle, a distance and a crop. You can do a lot more as a photographer, but this is pretty much the bare minimum. A painter however has to build the image completely based on his perception. It is a complex play of both observing the subject and manipulating materials to make that observation visible.

The list of differences (and the ways to overcome these) is huge, and I do not want to pretend I can summarize them all in one simple piece of writing. But this has made me conscious of the photography’s link with the physical reality once again. A painter gets all these beautiful materials to work with and what are we photographers left with? We get this measuring device filled with glass, sensors and electronics, and we can manipulate the data afterwards.

As you can see above, I have no reason to switch to painting yet. But I would love to play with this limitation of being bound to a reality some more. How lovely it would be to smear my hand over a digital photo; blending pixels and distorting arrays. What I would not give to create an image I have seen in my mind only. And at the same time, I would probably be stunned by the possibility of making anything I wanted.

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