Seeing Larger or Smaller than Life
There is so much of the book that is quotable, but one passage really grabbed me, where she talks about the way artists see, and she compares it to camera lenses.
“Artists see in specific sizes: larger than life, smaller than life, or life size, whatever that is. It’s like choosing a camera lens. Richard Estes prefers 55 mm, 35 mm, and wide-angle lenses, which reduce objects and clarify by sharpening and including a broader scope of the landscape. I have always preferred 85 mm or 105 mm lenses, which bring objects up close and clarify by enlarging.”
She also notes that “long before I used a camera, my vision was 85 mm. I remember early still life paintings where I as always surprised to notice either halfway through or after completion that the size of the oranges or apples was exaggerated and slightly larger than life.”
It’s interesting to see what lenses your favourite photographer uses. Annie Leibovitz says that her fave is the 35mm. When I started getting into DSLR photography, I used almost exclusively a 50mm lens. I still use it, but more recently have been playing with a 105mm, which is what I used to take today’s photos. When I take photos of people, which isn’t all that often, I go back and forth between the 105 and the 24-85mm lens that came with the camera. It’s taken me quite a while to get the hang of it TBH.
When you figure out how you see, or want to see, and then match that to the lens of a camera, that’s when things start to happen.
I recently had yet another prescription change which got me thinking again about wearing glasses and how that affects how we see, too. (Which I’ve written about before). I wonder if it has to do with my wanting to just get closer and closer to things? To see things with a certain level of crispness? But still, there’s a mood I want, too. Always sort of muddling toward feelings…that’s me.
So anyway, how do you see? Larger or smaller than life? Flack made a list of artists and where she thought they sat:
“Rembrandt saw larger than life.
Van Dyck – larger.
Rubens – larger.
Vermeer, Pieter de Hoogh – smaller.
Michelangelo – larger.
Leonardo – middle to smaller.
Renoir – larger.
Gerard David – smaller.
Rogier van der Weyden – smaller.”