Many years ago on a visit to Canberra, I happened across an exhibition of Harold Cazneaux’s photography. At the time he was unknown to me, but I found myself drawn to his photographs of ships and ferries in Sydney, all photographed in the early part of the 19th Century. One in particular “A Study in Curves” stood out because it introduced me to a new way of viewing a photograph. I wasn’t supposed to be looking at a ship or the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I was supposed to be noticing the collection of curves and arcs in the photograph. The focal points in the frame, from the bow of the ship, the ropes attaching it to shore, the bridge and the landscape on the distant shore, all demonstrated a slightly different curve. Some of these curves overlapped, some were quite distinct, but they draw the eye from the upper left of the frame, sweeping through the centre, down to the bottom right, then with a slight flick, slightly upward again.
If I take the trouble to look at other photographs by Cazneaux, I enjoy them, but they don’t stick in my head in the same way. The photos that follow are mine, and each of them was influenced in some way by Cazneaux’s ‘A Study in Curves”.
1 Star of India, San Diego
On the way back from buying the camera I still use, we walked along the foreshore in San Diego. The instant I saw The Star of India, I knew what I wanted to photograph. While I didn’t have the curve of a bridge in the background, and the hull of the ship was nowhere near as ornate, the ropes were what caught my eye. Without Cazneaux, I would have photographed the sails and the rigging, which are far more aesthetically pleasing.
2 Fallen Branch
It took me a while to work out why this branch held my attention. I knew it had to do with the bark which was peeling away from the timber, and for a while I was distracted by the colour of the bark, thinking that must be it. Eventually I realised this was also a photograph of curves. The branch curves, the bark peels away in curls and many of the sticks and leaves on the ground are also curved. I think this was the beginning of my fascination for bark.
3 A Study in Curves
With the realisation I could take photographs of curves in nature, I began looking for them. This tree provided me with the opportunity to do my own ‘Study in Curves’. While this photograph is not well framed, it does show the number of curves in the bark coming away from the trunk.
4. Detail from A Study in Curves
This photograph is a close-up of one piece of curved bark on the above tree.
5 Fallen Acacia Revisited
This acacia is another fallen tree which really works for me aesthetically. Partly it is the contrast between the rust coloured wood and the brown/black bark. Partly it’s because of the background and the mass of twigs and branches viewed through the frame of the fallen tree. However, I think it is a slightly abstracted study of curves. I have already posted a photograph ‘A Fallen Acacia’ on this blog. The photograph below is taken from a different angle but I still like the same elements. I don’t think this tree would have caught my eye without the long association with Cazneaux and the habit of looking for curves.