Thursday, 19 November 2009

Spirit of place - but Warsaw?

Walking from meeting to meeting in Warsaw this morning, I again had two of those moments I've described before - that sudden burst of anomalous familiarity, the spirit of place moment, though not from the 'here and now'. Right: ul. Mokotowska. I see this scene, and for a second I'm transported to Scandinavia in the mid-'50s. There's quite a few places in Warsaw that do this for me; much of Powiśle and Solec near my office.

Below: al. Ujazdowskie. Edwardian London?

This phenomenon has affected me since earliest childhood. When I took up photography some 30 years ago, I initially felt that I could capture spirits of place with the camera - I quickly learned that I could not (in colour at least).

It was only when I went digital that I realised what the problem was with colour film photography. Unless you spent a fortune on film, bracketing the exposure on each shot, it was unlikely that the picture was correctly exposed (for sky? foreground? background?), or that the colours were sufficiently saturated, etc. With digital you can check instantly, and correct on the scene as necessary. And the 'digital darkroom' allows you to tweak composition, contrast, brightness, saturation, exposure - selectively as well as whole frame. This lets you get closer to what you saw and felt at the time.

I'm now much more often able to look at a photo after a while and say - "yes - this is an accurate record of my emotional response to a scene". But what this all means requires another half a lifetime of searching.

1 comment:

oppollo said...

Thank you for defining the "accurate record of emotional response to a scene". Happens and happened so often to me in the past.