Inspiration: the small scale

October 8, 2012

We’re often being taught to expand, to research new things, to think big. But what about remaining true, at least for a while, to the small scale?

The painter Giorgio Morandi found repeated inspiration (and fame) in a collection of bottles and pots.

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Morandi 2

Morandi 3

© Giorgio Morandi, La Maturita, Grafis Edizioni 1996; photograph © Sigurd Kranendonk

Housebound for a while, photographer Lee Friedlander concentrated on the optical effects of flower stems in vases and realised later on, as he writes in his book, ‘that stems, like all good subjects I’ve encountered, could invite me to spend a lifetime working on them.’

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Yesterday I met a Dutch photographer who has followed the development of a landmark office building for several years with her camera, restricting herself to the same view frame and, from there, sensitive not only to its growth but even more perhaps to the changes of light and atmosphere. The resulting series of photographs is exciting in its subtle simplicity.

Being able to concentrate on only one subject for a longer period is an underrated bonus. It certainly feeds my own work in that one never knows in advance where one will be led in the process. My walks on the Walcheren beaches over five intense years seem to have opened a door to rusted iron as it was already very much there.


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More on concentrating on one subject for inspiration later on, and then on the importance of finding fellow-minded friends.