Cameras have the power to generate a lot of output very quickly. Unlike a painting, which can take days or weeks to complete, a finished photograph can be (although not always should be) finished in a comparatively short period of time. This is one of the inherent properties of the photographic medium, and it can be a curse and a blessing.
It’s a curse when you think about the huge, huge, huge number of pretty mediocre photographic images out there. The subject of the image in this post is a tree, so let’s just consider the number of people in the world with cameras and the number of trees that are being made the subject of photographs. It shouldn’t take long to conclude that by sheer numbers alone, you will end up with quite a number of unoriginal and repetitive snapshots of trees.
However, the relative ease with which a camera can produce a lot of images is a blessing when this property is used creatively. One way to do this is to use multiple photographs in the creation of a single presentation, such as a diptych or a triptych. Combining multiple images in a single presentation like this leverages the high output capability of photography to create works that arguably uniquely exploit the capabilities of the photographic medium. It is, of course, true that painters and other artists can produce diptychs and triptychs as well, but I would suggest that it’s just not quite the same – the inherent realism of photography binds the panels of a photographic diptych or triptych much more closely than a painting, creating a more unitary and self-contained work.
Over the next three posts, I thought I might put this theory to the test. We’ll start with the image in this post, “Black Tree No. 1,” and see how things develop!