When I was young my grandfather subscribed me to National Geographic. I remember the vivid images and stories of foreign places and thinking how lucky these people were to be working in such a field. I also thought how easy it would be to have a job as one of those photographers, traveling the world with nothing more necessary than the ability to push a button. It was years later that I began looking at the artistic side of photography, beginning with Edward Weston. Staring at his photos of peppers my initial thought was ‘so what, it’s a pepper’. Then, I began to see the sculptural quality of the image, and the transformative power of photography was opened up to me.
I continued to explore the works of numerous photographers — Josef Sudek, Henri Cartier Bresson, Ralph Gibson, Ernst Haas, Aaron Siskind, and too many others to list, but always I was most drawn to those who emphasized the transformation of the world into something else.
My own initial entry into the act of shooting was messy and bland. I was always looking for something interesting and magnificent to shoot and failing miserably. This went on for some time, and quite honestly I don’t know what kept me going back out to shoot. Then a few years ago I came across the book that would completely change my perspective, Tao of Photography. I read this book with intense fascination and began applying it’s principles to my own process of shooting. Very quickly the potential of the world around me opened up, and I began seeing images everywhere. When shooting, I think of myself as nothing more than an aimless wanderer with a camera. I keep my mind as free and clear as I possibly can, then something catches my eye — a shadow, a color, a form — and I then quickly compose an image around that small detail. I snap the shutter, and without dwelling on the previous image, continue to shuffle along waiting for the next image to happen.
The finished image does little for me. It is the act of looking intensely, yet carefree, for the image that now keeps me going back for more. To put it simply it is meditative. When I am in the right mental state and everything is coming together in my aimless wandering, it becomes a meditation. I don’t know if I’m a creator; after all I’m not staring at a blank canvas the way a painter is, I am merely taking what is already there and composing it in such a way that it hopefully communicates something. I am documenting in the sense that the material is already there, however I am not just displaying the ‘is-ness’ of the thing but something else; there is a transformation into something else of the thing. Back at home I look through what I have captured, recognize what works, what ‘says something’, and what doesn’t. Then it’s just a matter of a few adjustments in Photoshop, and it’s done. But as I already said, the finished image in itself does little for me, it is all about the process.
The images I am enclosing and that are exhibited on my little website are the result of the two or three years I have spent applying the previously mentioned technique of aimless searching to the visual world. I don’t like to describe them myself, but if I were pressed I would say they are glimpses into overlooked everyday details, often resulting in found abstractions. They are the transformation of recognizable vignettes into balanced compositions, capturing the beauty in that which is so easily ignored. I suppose that is what I hope people will get from my images, that they will look at the world a little differently, that maybe they will start to see what I see.
Visit Matthew Hall’s website to see more of his abstract photography.