I’ll confess I like these “Marin’s Figures” images out of which I’ve been making a series. The subjects are sculptures by the contemporary Mexican artist Jorge Marin that I encountered entirely by chance in Denver, Colorado back in 2017. I found the sculptures so compelling that I was quickly moved to photograph them.
As much as I like these images, I’ll also confess I’m a little torn. With regard to the sculptures themselves, their compelling nature is down to the work of Mr. Marin. My photographs of them to a large extent therefore are simply recording the artistry he has already produced. If I like these photographs, how much of that is down to me? In evaluating these photographs, where does his artistry end and my artistry begin?
I think the standard answer to this kind of question among photographers is that photographers create artistry through the choices that they make in their use of the photographic medium. The eye of the photographer creates composition through excluding elements from the frame and carefully arranging the elements that are included therein; the camera can be used to to create blur or sharpness with shutter speed and aperture controls; the computer or darkroom can be used to manipulate brightness and contrast so as to create visual harmony and the placement of emphasis within the image.
I certainly used all of these elements in producing these photographs. With respect to composition, I used low camera angles and very close placement of the camera to the sculptures so as to present a very specific view of the sculptures set within a precisely arranged background of sky and branches. I used a relatively wide aperture and slow shutter speed largely to accommodate the low light levels of the dusk in which I was photographing, but also to soften and blur the branches in the background. At the computer, I very carefully worked with the brightness and contrast to achieve the specific look I was after, in this case a very shadowy figure against a comparatively bright background.
Without meaning to sound pretentious, these choices are artistic decisions, and they do indeed dramatically affect how the final image looks. Don’t believe me? Just go online and search for pictures of “El Abrazo” by Jorge Marin, there’s lots out there. You may or may not like my photograph, but I do believe my photograph genuinely looks different than most photographs of Mr. Marin’s sculptures (or indeed of the sculptures themselves when seen in person, though this is a bit of an apples and oranges comparison). If my photograph looks different, it’s a result of the artistic choices I made in the photographic process, which certainly are down to me.
In the end, like many things in life, I’m not sure there’s a clear answer. I like the photographs and I believe in my artistic contribution to their making, but I suppose it’s okay too to feel a little torn about them.