By now you all know how passionate I am about photo credibility and preserving the meaning and real world references of our photographs. And don’t worry, you’ll be hearing much more from me on this topic. However, did you know that I also love photoART? Perhaps you spotted my painted zebra in my post Great Expectations and Communicating Photographically. Perhaps not. In any case, here’s my next photoART offering, a collage entitled Odd Juxtaposition I: Greener Pastures.
“But what does it all mean?” you ask. Aha, that is a good question, indeed, a great question. I found in studying twentieth century art as part of my PhD that “what does it mean” is the best question of all. My Odd Juxtapositions series is a visual exploration of the dichotomy between the world as it is, and ‘eye candy’ or the fanciful notions expressed in many ‘enhanced’ photographs.
In Odd Juxtaposition I: Greener Pastures, a woman and a Hereford bull stand ankle deep in a field of flowers. The woman is glowing with an idealised beauty. The bull is in his youthful prime, pristinely clean with a fluffy coat and even a pompom of a tail. Their gaze looks out of the picture at you, almost inviting you to join them. The lush field in which they stand is bejewelled with blossoms of mauve and lavender hues. All is set against a tranquil sky. It is a vision evocative of the beauty and fecundity of nature.
But this vision also seems quite wrong. On inspection, the woman turns out to be a mannequin. The bull is handsome and powerful, but he is scaled down to the size of a large dog. The field of flowers and the clouds in the sky are out of proportion and without strong anchoring elements in the landscape, the scene seems to have a lighter-than-air quality about it, only mitigated by the solidity and mass we know bulls to have despite this one’s diminutive stature. This is no scene out of the world as we know it.
This image was made by splicing cutout elements of three different photographs into a fourth photograph. The bull was taken from one of the many photographs I snapped at the Royal Canberra Show for an ad campaign. The mannequin was taken at Floriade, where each year floral artists dress mannequins in designer wear fashioned from plant materials. The sky was photographed in Canberra on a lovely day of striated clouds. And the flower field of pansies, tulips and irises was from my seemingly endless collection of photographs of Floriade displays.
The vibrant colours are just as I took them, I didn’t retouch any of the photographs, merely cut them up and spliced them together. This demonstrates the notion I mentioned in Photoreality, what a concept , which is that I believe that the most authentic of photographs are usually just a little contrived, and the most manipulated still contain a modicum of reality.
Odd Juxtaposition I: Greener Pastures is a fiction but it also alludes to universal truths about the human experience (appreciation of beauty, the bounty of nature, fantastic visions), and it is a fiction composed of parts of non-fictional photographs. In their new positions, however, we don’t know what to make of the them. They have lost their original contexts and scales and come together to form a new vision. But like many examples of photographic ‘eye candy’ in circulation, it is a vision of beauty and colour that pops from the screen and fills the eye, yet is curiously empty of significance. Like sugar, it is sweet and tasty but bereft of substance.
But we love our sugar, don’t we?
 Sabrina Caldwell, Great Expectations and Communicating Photographically: https://thephotographicalist.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/communicating-photographically/
 Sabrina Caldwell, Photoreality, what a concept:
The words “And now for something completely different” were a catchphrase of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, BBC 1969-1974