Benedict Brain is a UK-based photographer, journalist and artist. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and sits on the society’s Distinctions Advisory Panel. He is also a past editor of Digital Camera Magazine, and the author of You Will be Able to Take Great Photos by The End of This Book.
Continuing with the tree theme from the previous column, I thought I’d share a festive seasonal Christmas tree-like image I used this holiday season as a greeetings card. OK, so it’s not a real tree, but I’m sure you’ll agree it looks like one. In the summer, I saw the photograph at a meteorological station at Qagortoq, Greenland. I knew the moment I saw it that it would feature as my ‘Christmas image’.
Most years, I keep an eye out for an image to use to celebrate the festive season, even though, if truth be told, I can be a little ‘Bah humbug!” about Yuletide. I’m not a massive fan, especially of the crass consumerism and all its trimmings – sorry! I also struggle with the whole Christmas tree thing. Although I appreciate that they do look jolly nice and brighten the place up with a festive vibe, it seems weird to me to cut a tree down for a few weeks, even though many are farmed sustainably. Plastic trees raise other issues, of course, so although I’m often conflicted, I usually end up getting one.
Anyhow, I feel happy if a Christmas-esque image presents itself sometime throughout the year. I’ll often make it into a card to share with friends and family. Over the years, I have developed a somewhat ‘deadpan’ aesthetic when I approach the subject, and there’s nothing that thrills me more than finding something that might be a slightly ironic take on the conventional imagery associated with the season.
So you can imagine my delight at finding this image. Stylistically, it aligns with the approach I’ve been evolving over the last couple of years; it’s quite formal, with attention paid to aligning the verticals and keeping certain elements symmetrical with only a little post-processing.
This is driven, in part, by using a medium-format camera. The format slows me down and makes me more deliberate in my approach. It’s also simply an approach I like, and it works for me, my world view, and what I want to say about it.
As regular readers will know, the idea of metaphor and how an image can take on alternative meanings also interests me. This is not just a record shot of a meteorological instrument; it’s also a festive photo! I even like how the red pipe leads out of the tree as if it’s somehow hotwired to Santa’s grotto – or maybe someone’s just spiked my mince pie!
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