Photographic Form


untitled (Guadalupe State Park, Texas 2006) copyright Douglas Stockdale

There has been an ongoing dialog sparked by Colin Jago on Stills regarding Content versus Form.  I think that the word ‘content’ became stickier when perhaps I tried to use the word ‘meaning’ to try to help understand the ‘content’, as used in the phrase “the photographic image had this content”.  Thus, I found that we were able to obtain more agreement regarding the use of the word form when discussing what a photographic image is (about).

For an engineer like myself, I usually do not dwell much on the precise use of language as much as I do regarding the science of nature.  Perhaps this is why photography appeals to me, I can go straight from my feelings to create an image and there the photograph is, without having to explain my feeling or the resulting image. It is what it is and there it is, so look and see it.  Not many words in that process ;- )

Form is the structure of the image as well as what is in the photograph, likewise for ‘color’ and ‘shape’.  This I can easily understand. A photograph has a very defined structure; it is a flat plane with defined edges and a tactical feel to it. On the surface or perhaps slightly imbedded in the surface structure as may be the case for an inkjet print, are a whole lot of dots that I can not make out, but create an image that also has its own form.

On the surface of this paper is the photographic image that has some form (color, structure, shape) that I can (or can not) easily recognize and I add my words that are associated with the form; I see a ‘house’ on a ‘road’ with a ‘clear sky’ and ‘located near’ a ‘palm tree’. The parts of the image also have their own form created by tonal values that represent shadows, mid tones, highlights that reinforce what it is I think that it is, e.g. the ‘house’ in the mid-day sun.

I believe that I have a huge influence (or even ‘control’, as much as I don’t like that word as much lately) on the resulting form of the photograph and what the form on the image within.

I am still wrestling with content and meaning, so more about that a later time.

Best regards, Doug


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