Searching for Subjects

By: Gustav Hoiland

Jan 21 2010

Category: architecture

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Focal Length:4.6mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
My Bike in Minneapolis

This photo is one of the better that I’ve shot that include that very bicycle.  I’ve probably shot a couple hundred photos that somehow incorporate that sweet little machine.  This is simply because I, a couple years ago, mainly explored photography on open afternoons riding my bike around town, looking for something that caught my eye.  Once I had an interesting backdrop, I would just throw my bike in there because I wanted some kind of subject material I guess.  I wasn’t shooting people, wasn’t shooting events, I was just shooting some “urban landscape” scene and I always seemed to throw my bike in there to give it some purpose.

This is one of those images that immediately popped out at me when I began to sift through the day’s catch.  The first thing that went through my head when I saw it was “Wow.  That’s pretty interesting.”  That’s generally the reaction I also get from friends when I show this image.  But why?  There’s certainly a dominant element of scale involved – that tiny little bike against massive tubes of concrete.  The colors involved also must be a part of that immediate favorable gut reaction. Very neutral stuff, just some grays and browns for the most part.  But then there’s the splash of pink and “celeste” (the bike’s a  Bianchi, and that’s their color) that catches the eye.  But the eye is not pulled towards the bike.  I can very comfortably look at the barbed wire climbing up the corrugated sheets, the clean new sidewalk, and other parts of the picture without having that nagging, almost magnetic pull towards the bike.

After that first burst of uncontrolled thought you start to absorb what’s in the image more I think.  You see the elements of decay, shown by the patchy paint job, hastily scribbled graffiti (that hasn’t been painted over), and perhaps most obviously the metal trough that has literally lost its bottom to rusting.  You try to imagine what lies outside the frame (how tall are those towers?  How many of them are there?).  But these afterthoughts don’t have anything to do with that first “wow” that you feel.

The question then becomes, should that immediate positive reaction be actively sought out when creating images?  Does that somehow rob images of deeper meaning?  Is it possible to shoot specifically for that effect?  That reminds me of an interview I heard with Gnarls Barkley where they were discussing writing songs for their new album and the big pressure was to produce the next “Crazy” (that super catchy hit song from their previous album).  None of the new songs had that immediate catch. If you haven’t heard that song, look it up, and I bet within the first 3 seconds of hearing it you’ll be sucked in.

Anyhoo, whatever is happening here, I still like it.

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