On Ambient Photography

On Ambient Photography

A local seagull coasts down Beach Avenue in Vancouver’s West End neighbourhood. Click to view limited edition size and price options.
Eric Satie – 1866 – 1925

In 1917 the composer Eric Satie created a tectonic shift in how people listened to music. Rather than taking the in-your-face approach of the previous musical masters and creating a piece that demanded your full attention, Satie designed lyrical themes that would occupy the background of a person’s soundscape. A work that would lend a musical scent to the room but wouldn’t draw too much attention to itself.

Furniture Music,’ he called it. It was a seemingly disrespectful phrase that promoted the idea that some music should set the mood but not dominate it. A tune that you wouldn’t necessarily notice when you entered a soundscape but one that would start to tickle at the deeper recesses of your auditory sense.

The term has changed over the century, and what Sate named ‘Furniture Music’ we now refer to as ‘Ambient.’

A genre, either a century-old or just a few days fresh that I find perfect when either post-processing my latest batch of images or teaching a computer how to dance to the tune of my latest mobile app.

I think the same applies to fine art photography. My works that often prove to be popular with my clients are ambient. They are there but not quite there. They complement a room but don’t scream, ‘Look at me first!’

When I look at pieces that I’ve framed and mounted in my own personal space, I’ve noticed how the presentation of my art, both physically and stylistically, has evolved. The work I pick and where I place it is intentional. I favour it because it could become a conversation piece. Not something that grabs attention right away but something to talk about after pouring that second glass of wine or beer.

The photo at the top of this post was taken later afternoon in infrared on April 8, 2011, and remains my favourite piece of personal ambient art. It’s bold and full of motion but not something that, initially, demands a second glance. But it does plant the seed of curiosity, and once the conversation solves the pressing problems of the day, the second beer is cracked or the next glass of wine poured it sometimes magically becomes the focus.

The photo is there yet not there—sort of like Schrödinger’s cat.

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