I was interested in the idea of a photograph as information and in the notion that, since a photograph is created by light, then a ‘well exposed’ image could be seen to convey more information than an image that is underexposed or blown out. A good exposure that avoids missing detail in highlights and shadows could be seen to convey maximum information. One that fails to capture detail in the highlights and shadows could be seen to inadequately convey information.
Our cameras are very sophisticated in their efforts to ensure that we ‘correctly’ expose our images. We have auto-exposure modes and a light meter to allow us to check that exposure is ‘correct’. Zebra stripes show us where our images may be blown out so that we know to re-set the exposure to produce a better image. We use histograms to ensure that the tonal range is ‘correct’ and software like Photoshop to allow us to correct contrast, lightness and darkness after the fact.
However, not all images benefit from ‘perfect’ exposure. And not all images with blown out highlights and black shadows have less information.
Rinko Kawauchi ‘s image, below, at first glance, appears to show an overexposed rose. The background is blurred beyond recognition, and lens flare creates a blue orb. The colours are soft and the colour range is narrow. What information could this image possibly hold?
Rinko Kawauchi (2012) Illuminance
In terms of the traditional techniques for conveying information through photography, this image clearly does not conform. The rose is the main subject of the image yet it has no detail, other than the outline shape of the petals and the leaves, since almost all shadow and colour are removed. The result is gorgeous. The shape of the flower is emphasised and to me, this image has more of an emotional impact than a traditional image of a rose. It is quite a sad image because of how the colours of the rose have disappeared from the flower and slipped into the background. Traditionally, this would be a vibrant pink rose, the colour of the pink in the background, and in perfect focus. The green at the bottom of the picture is the colour of the leaves. The blue orb is suggestive of the moon and adds a spiritual connotation, a further link with the natural world.
This image demands that I do not ignore the beauty of nature and reminds me that one day I will not be able to see it.
List of illustrations
Kawauchi’. Rinko (2012) Illuminance (photograph) At: https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=wqhjGI62&id=FF725A0DBC0595DB92961F783EF0266111A3C367&q=Rinko+Kawauchi+Illuminance&simid=608016763208204417&selectedIndex=0&ajaxhist=0(Accessed 29 March 2017)