Beyond Black and White
His black shirt broke through the cloudy, gray sky as he carefully clenched his camera like an ancient artifact, his hands cautiously constructed around the frame of the camera. With the Sydney Harbor Bridge in the corner of his left eye, Derek knelt down, searching for the perfect angle. His mind was unmarked by his empty thoughts. Images painted themselves upon the fresh canvas in his head. His body loosened and he became consumed with the scene that lay before him. The perfect shot sneaked into view and the shutter of the camera sounded. Snap, Snap, Snap.
Derek’s photography was born in Sydney, Australia during the fall of 2003. He had ventured to Australia to study abroad at an art college. He was always into film with aspirations of directing, but after experiencing a handful of film production classes, he realized that film was not his direction in life. According to Derek, the problem with film is that “you are forced to rely on hundreds of people, which never allows you full creative control.” Derek has realized that in photography, he can control all aspects of the medium. To him, pictures embody a memory that has been frozen in time and can be shared with anyone at any particular moment. Photography allows Derek to express and share how he views the world. As a photographer, he can take a picture of the same thing in two different ways to convey two completely contrasting feelings. Derek believes that “photos can be very honest, and they can also harbor a lie.”
While in Sydney, Derek purchased his first digital camera and began taking countless pictures. Derek became consumed by the photography and realized that he had discovered “a release, an outlet.” After receiving positive feedback from his photography, he returned to California with a new direction in life. He was able to expand his photography with the gift of a Canon professional digital camera. Derek enjoys photographing his friends and shooting landscapes because he loves to transform the people he knows into models and delights in focusing on things that people wouldn’t normally notice. Derek is fascinated by photographing places he has never been before and he soon hopes to move in a direction that reflects his own personal life.
I have never seen a photograph quite like The Leaf and I. The way the bright red leaf floats atop the calm stream of water is so simple, yet so powerful. The green moss on either side of the leaf serves as a path for the leaf to lazily wander down. The pebbles and snails that take habitat in the stream are unbothered by the leaf’s progression downstream. The silhouette of the photographer shadows over the leaf and makes its presence felt. My initial reaction to this photo was that it conveyed beauty. The compilation is so bright and refreshing. There is so much contrast in such a small piece of nature. I could tell that the reflection in the water is of the photographer, but the shadowy silhouette allows the figure to remain faceless and mysterious. At first glance, I noticed the red leaf. The shade of red draws me into the picture without hesitation. My eyes move to the green moss surrounding the leaf and finally to the clear water, embracing the photographer’s reflection. The photo is a snapshot of nature that conveys the simplicity and beauty of the world around us.
The photograph allows its viewers to take a step back from the world around them and emerge themselves in nature. Personally, the photo makes me feel fresh and calm. There is a pleasant feeling about The Leaf and I that illustrates a sense of soothing relaxation and serenity. The contrast of a bright red upon a vibrant green embodies a perception of crisp freshness. The photo almost has the feel of a fresh rain. The position of the leaf in the center of the photograph, as well as its bright color, draws us into the picture to examine it more closely. The fact that there is only one leaf present communicates a sensation of loneliness. Therefore, the photographer’s silhouette can be viewed as a companion to the leaf, creating a special bond between the photographer and nature. The water is clear and calm, revealing a tranquil habitat for the mind to be at ease. You can almost hear the quiet sounds of the babbling stream and feel the cool air around you.
Most of Derek’s other photographs are similar in style to the one I analyzed. He uses striking contrast, unique placement, and different angles to depict what he sees in a remarkable way. The simple objects that he photographs are eye-catching and hook the viewer into the photo. The picture of the bird in flight, for example, is an amazing photo. The first object we notice is the bird centered near the top of the photo. The contrast of the black bird against the bright, white sky causes the bird to pop out of the picture. As the bird pulls us into the picture, we notice that the background is a bustling city. The bird is frozen in motion and, for that moment, the city’s commotion is quiet. It almost seems as if the city is transfixed and the bird continues in flight to its prefixed destination. Derek’s use of contrast is also apparent in the piece he treasures most. This piece is titled Lost, but Found and was taken on Halloween of 2003 in a cove discovered near Sydney harbor. The scene intrigued him because the tree’s shadows gave the picture a peaceful, yet eerie feel. The path winds off into the unknown, which is symbolic of life because we are uncertain of the path that lies ahead. Lost, but Found is the first photo that allowed Derek to realize his potential in photography. It was the first picture he took that someone else adored.
The reason I chose to profile Derek is clear. He is a wonderful aspiring photographer who envelops himself in his work to create such a powerful image. He is self-taught and continues to improve with every photo. He is always trying to shoot from a different angle than you would normally expect. Derek strives for people to view something in a way they might never have seen before. He wants them to look closer and notice the details. He craves to take photos that “inspire people and evoke an emotion, good or bad.” When photographing a portrait, he tries to find what makes the model look best and at the same time what makes them appear natural. He uses different extremes to capture the person as a whole. He shoots in black and white to elicit a more professional and serious tone and he chooses color when he wants the photograph to embody a more real and natural feel. Derek’s photography has progressed in an exceptional way since Sydney and as he continues to develop his own style, he remains very open minded, expanding his compilation of already promising work.