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Invisible Sublime Photography


Thierry Maindrault’s Monthly Chronicle

We are already at the end of the year 2023. For Photography and its servants, it had a multitude of numerous, varied, expected, diverse or surprising informations. This proves that the world of photography is still alive, let’s rejoice, not everyone can say the same. Let’s end this year with the true pleasure of the photographer, whether professional or passionate or vice versa.

Previously, just for our memories which are impoverished and for those deprived of the new omnipresent binary thinking, we noted some markings of developments. The most important is the arrival in force of the artificial binary design of images based on creations that are very often stolen. Such an achievement managed, despite its many imperfections, to win first prize (all categories combined) in the most prestigious global photography competition. This confirmed that the juries of thousands of competitions were, almost unanimously, totally incompetent in the field of photography and, more seriously, on the results of supposedly photographic work. All this is nothing, except that it highlighted the predominant role of the so-called patrons, with or without Foundation, who demand of their protégés and their juries in any operation to improve their image and increase their jackpot. Which obviously leads to the decay of all these major global events, public or private, which made us dream and created vocations.

It’s enough to end the year and make you think I’ll be a bit out of date. To finish, on the technical side, I remain convinced that it is always and will always be better as long as the tools obey man and do not pretend to create for him.

While waiting for this new year which is coming to us with many events announced, I offer you a little organized trip, into our future, in search of the Photographic Grail. Each of us hopes to create one, or more, of these magical images which will be imbued in the minds and hearts of many generations.

Whether under the black veil of a “photographic” camera or the finger on a sensitive trigger, we must always digest, in a fraction of a second, these thousands of parameters to obtain the alignment of the planets. Everyone is supposed to know that light seems to us to be the fastest thing, so fixing light is a matter of time. Another prerequisite to reassure everyone’s tastes and attractions, a sublime photograph has neither genre nor particular origin. Sporting events, landscapes, industrial illustrations, school memories, still lifes, portraits, war testimonies, crystallographies, fashion icons, underwater discoveries, microphotographs, social scenes, astrophotographies, etc., etc., all areas of photographic investigation is conducive to the birth of a masterpiece in the making.

For example, the landscape photographer is only, after long hours, even days, of preliminary observations, after having dissected the weather like an airline pilot or a skipper, after having prepared his shooting materials, whether they are digital sensors or glass plates, and after having checked his equipment, will start. Will it still be necessary to place the support leg(s) in the right place, just like a painter his easel? Then, the wait sets in for a longer or shorter period, until the furtive moment when he sees in the back of his head what his finished image will be. By image, I mean this work which will pull his spectators from themselves.

For a portrait photographer, the know-how lies elsewhere. After a long contact with his subject or an instant psychological analysis, the creator must marry his understandings with the physical aspects (specific constraints included) of the model. Then, the environment of the shot becomes essential with the essential role in highlighting the subject or in outlining the photographer’s style. The session starts with the reinstallation of the subject in his natural behavior, whether in the middle of the desert or under the spotlights of a sophisticated studio. What I call the two or three takes, for loosening the subject, are necessary to ensure that everything is in place. Then, the anticipation of the nanosecond becomes essential to hope for a future exchange of the work with generations of captivated readers.

For inanimate objects, from architecture to still life, everything will be in measurement (that of distance of course), the millimeter plays an essential role, very often mixed with choices of angulation. The exact position of the elements requires hours of hesitation, their preparation requires almost universal knowledge, the distribution of light represents real puzzles. When everything seems settled, horror sets in with an unexpected shift, a ripening, a flow of rain. Obviously, the birth of the photographic work will depend on temporal coordination to reach peaks.

Many of you recognized yourself in this approach to your exceptional photographs.

And then, we are left with these two timeless exceptions; but not out of the light.

Photography totally, improvised, unpredictable, like in a lottery. An unthinkable probability that invites itself and yet shows itself to be very real. At the bend of a path, behind a window, at the exit of a factory, on a pier, in the middle of nowhere, instinctively, your finger will stare at a large whole made of a very small nothing. Chance, luck, skill, …, why do you want to search and find explanations or excuses, since the image is magnificent.

On the other hand, there is this project of a superb shot that we have all experienced. There is this work, this personal investment, this creation matured over a long time, this concept prepared with meticulousness, neglecting no detail in its construction, whether they are in the middle of a desert or in the privacy of an alcove . Until the supreme moment when the image in the viewfinder corresponds perfectly to the one installed in our mind. Our breath freezes, our finger stops on the contact, the moment offers us the sublime photograph which is printed forever in our memory, just for our memory. The image hunter decides to give his freedom to the beauty, however hunted, who has fully offered herself to him.

Beauty will remain eternal and the play of light will invite us again and again in this coming year.

But let’s not forget all these sublime photographs which will remain indefinitely and deliberately invisible.

Thierry Maindrault
December 08, 2023

your comments about this chronicle and its photography are always welcome at [email protected]

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