Art Photography – Two Men and a Dog by the River

Two Men and a Dog . Copyright: Sean P. Durham, Berlin, 2022

A good photo should have qualities of art in it. What do I mean?

If you take photos and want others to enjoy your work, your own unique way of looking should be somewhere in the photo. That’s what I mean.

It’s been a while since I thought seriously about colour photography. Today, I took a photo down by the river.

When I finally got home, and took a gander at all the photos I’d taken, I found this little gem. I worked at it in Photoshop; dodged and burned, very gently. Balanced the light and shadows, and then converted it into black and white to see how much further I could take it.

Black and white seemed nice, colour seemed better.

The lovely reflections along the dog’s coat, and the orange-red leash that takes the eye through to the neck of the dog, answers to the front man’s red sleeve above the basic composition. A triangle of colours, minimal, and tasteful.

The basic tone of the photography is a blue hue. This allowed me to keep working on the colours without turning it into a garish flash of colours. Pretty simple.

Above all, it’s solid and truthful. Men and dog stand firmly, and exist as if they own the platz.

It’s a moment in time. And somehow, it grabs my attention. I can look at it and enjoy it for a long time.

I come from the background of painter.

If you described yourself as an artist among the groups of people I used to mixed with, they’d take that as a challenge to prove you wrong.

It was as if you’d told them that the earth is flat.

Late night, in a cafe, lots of wine and beer spilled on the table, and ashtrays full of cigarettes – ones like Picasso smoked. There was always some quiet guy sitting in the group wearing a Basken Beret – nobody challenged him, it was obviously so bloody stereotype, artistically speaking. And he didn’t say anything, anyway.

As art students we had our work and brains pounded by day, and at night we criticized each other’s work over wine and beers. None of us really reached a point where we could feel confident in any work we did, yet we didn’t go looking for critical support, or opinions from others; unless we were spoiling for a fight.

Art school was a brutal factory where young people were churned and twisted, then tipped out onto the floor and exposed, so they felt terrible about everything they produced. The professors were the farm workers who enjoyed tearing a student’s ideas to pieces in front of everybody else. Then, the professor would draw the class’s attention to a poster on the wall. It was a photo of the professor’s painting. Which served as an example of what we should aspire to. I tended to think it looked like nonsense. Slimy paint, sparkles and definitely the work of a monkey on drugs. I didn’t aspire, at all.

Since then, I’ve given myself all the permission in the world to paint, and take photographs, with the thought in mind that it doesn’t matter if I’m wrong about what I’m looking at. That I might embarrass myself with those moments of life that I try and capture in a unique way. I allow myself to screw up and learn from those screw-ups. And nobody has the right to expose me in front of a group of confused art students. Especially ones who wear big flat berets that droop over their ears.

Deciding whether something is worthy of the label art of not, is subjective argument. Nobody else is inside my head, as far as I know, so I’ll decide whether it’s worth my time and effort to process and enjoy. Then, I can only hope that somebody else will see what I saw.

The art of processing a photo happens mostly inside our own minds. We see its merits, its value, and decide that it is worth our time.

The photo of two men and dog certainly present questions, that’s always a good start to a story. As the viewer delves deeper into the photo they might develop a subjective narrative about the photo. One that fits the basic story of two men enjoying a day out with their dog. Maybe it isn’t their dog.

If I wrote a story about them, I might decide that they stole the dog, it led to an argument. One of the men is honest, the other not so much. But they made-up and became friends again. They then took some photos of their own while they calmed down. The dog is totally oblivious to everything happening in the men’s world. He just wants to go home and get his dinner. That can be mundane, or it can be art.

Henry Moore, the sculptor, once said that “Art is when you believe in life.”

Picasso said, “Art is the lie that enables us to realise the truth.”

Picasso also said that the artist must invent the truth, then make the rest of the world believe it’s the truth. That’s a tall order, but if you can get a small group of people to believe in your truth, then you are on the way creating your own little universe where the laws of mundane life no longer exist.

After taking the photo, then processing it, I was quite pleased with capturing this moment of life. The life of four unknown things, a dog, two men, and a river down below. The river flows, the men stand stock still and take shots, the dog raises a paw, and poses for my photo.

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