Delighting in a Chasm Between Artistic Senses
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Throw-Away Test Shot Photo by Stéphane Barbery ( I think this is almost the perfect photo, but Stéphane doesn't think it's very good ) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Stephane Barbery,
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/125 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Throw-Away Test Shot
Photo by Stéphane Barbery
( I think this is almost the perfect photo, but Stéphane doesn't think it's very good )

French writer and photographer (and Kyoto resident and friend) Stéphane Barbery is an artistic guy, whose artistic sense differs from me in just about every way. Since I have almost no artistic sense away from the camera, this is probably a good thing, but our different ideas about art are clearly apparent in our photography.

Most photos I post on my blog are simply props to tell a story, but the photos I post for the sake of their beauty or interest tend to be full of rich colors and scenes. On the other hand, Stéphane's photo books and photo site are full of pictures that speak to the viewer in a completely different way, using subtle colors or an explicit lack of color.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Eclectic Photo Geeks at the Eclectic Music Concert, Stéphane took an opportunity before the concert to give my Nikon D700 a try, particularly enjoying a thin depth of field with my Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 that his current camera can't match.

His test shots were all on my memory card when I got home, and most were indeed throw-away test shots, but the shot shown above, of vase in front of a large paper lantern, stopped me in my tracks. It's not at all the kind of picture that I would take, and it seems to me that it is the kind of picture that Stéphane would take (and, of course, he did take it), so I was thrilled to find a “bridge” between his artistic sense and my own. I really like that shot.

Unfortunately, the bridge remains elusive, because Stéphane does not like it. He futzed with it a bit in Lightroom, posting the result on his Flickr page, but says that he is still not at all satisfied with it. It's just as well because I don't care for the revised version anyway, in that it destroyed whatever it was that I thought was special about the original.

Although our artistic senses don't match, I feel I can learn a lot from Stéphane. He understands his own sense, and can articulate well why he feels as he does. (He articulates it to me in English, which I appreciate, because I remember nothing from my one semester of French in college 20+ years ago.) So, conversations with him are always a learning experience for me... not learning “correct” or “incorrect”, but merely new ways to think artistically.

He has a new photo book coming out next month, Un an à Kyôto (One Year in Kyoto). On a different front, the English translation of a novel he wrote with his wife is currently #33 on Amazon's Best-Seller List. The original French came out in 2006, but seems that it's still #8 on Amazon France's best-seller list. (For reference, the most recent edition of my geeky technical book peaked at #31 when it came out in 2006, but it's now ranked at at #20,213.)

(Maybe some day I'll get a second shot at best-seller ranking with that photography book I've got in me somewhere...)

All 2 comments so far, oldest first...

It’s actually a pretty interesting friend that you have. I’m French and didn’t know Muriel Barbery (I don’t live in France anymore and I only read technical computer books if anything :), but it looks like she was in the top 10 best-selling authors there. Apparently her book has sold in excess of a million copies and she decided to quit her teacher job and move to Japan to fulfill a dream and to avoid media attention, thanks to the proceeds of her book. She reminds me a lot of Amelie Nothomb, let’s hope for her that her Japan period doesn’t end up the same way. But she’s very lucky to be one of those few successful writers.

— comment by rx1337 on September 23rd, 2009 at 12:45am JST (14 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Now I have to get both books !

french, living in Chicago, going to Japan next month…

— comment by Luc on September 24th, 2009 at 9:34am JST (14 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink
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