On beauty & impact

I recently signed up on the Art Direction for Fashion evening course at Central Saint Martins. This is something completely new to me - both the "fashion" and "art direction". In the opening lecture, we explored two interpretations of common terms - glamor (and corresponding interpretation as Sprezzatura), and beauty (as in impact).

The introduction of beauty as an immediate emotion, or impact was presented rather well by Richard Seymour on his TED Talk: How beauty feels, and presentation itself, I found profoundly beautiful as well as thought provoking.

Wither beauty is felt in the soul, and equates to impact or formed in the mind is one for further debate, but nevertheless, the discussion got me thinking about how photography related to other art forms. The process of photography as an art shares commonality with other, seemingly unrelated disciplines.

A good image often exhibits multiple layers - there is the "hook" - something that the viewer is initially enticed by, followed by something more complex and less obvious. An image that is only "beautiful" and contains no additional depth will quickly become uninteresting; whereas an image with only complexity without offering incentives for the viewer is "inaccessible".

Drawing a parallel with music - take for example one of my favorite pieces: Alexander Scriabin's Piano Sonata No. 1 in F minor, in my opinion an masterpiece, and one that has held mesmerizing intrigue for a decade and counting. This work contains an explosive exposition that quickly grips the audience, and then bring them on a journey of sadness, rebellion, anger and maybe finally acceptance (composition being a "a cry against God" - context here). The greatness of the piece is in the journey that it forces me on - willing or not, and I am convinced that this is achieved by the masterful balance of beauty and depth.

Looking back at most of my images, I have focused too much on the initial impact - be it through studying composition, or through investment in time to find impactful subjects. Some times I have succeed in creating images which are beautiful, but upon reflection, rarely memorable.

I think time is right for me to focus on not just achieve impact, but also explore how to articulate depth.

Perhaps indeed beauty is only skin deep.