Category - In Harmony

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Persistence, exploration, experimentation, refinement of the learning process, and an individuality of interpretation are just some of the qualities which drive musicians and photographers to improve their art. For me, the parallels between making music and making a photograph are very strong and deeply ingrained.

This is the second in a series of articles I’m calling ‘In Harmony’, in which I investigate the parallels and cross influences of my musical background upon my abstract photography.

My first article in the series, ‘The Transformative Process’, looked at how an abstract photographer and a musician both ‘transform’ their raw material, and in the process, infuse it with their own personal interpretation, individuality and characterisation. In this article I’d like to explore the process or experience of making music and compare that with the experience of making an abstract photograph.

A ‘Hands On’ Experience for both Music and Photography

For someone who plays an instrument, music is as much about the ‘doing’ as the ‘listening’.  It’s literally hands on – it’s physical, tactile and all consuming. It’s a very active and engaging process. It’s called ‘Practice’.  But it’s something which I always enjoy.

Jane playing the piano in her Studio
Playing the piano in my Studio

I’ll quite happily sit for hours at the piano, working on and refining a piece. I gain great pleasure and satisfaction from overcoming the initial challenges and technical difficulties contained within a piece, and ultimately reaching a state of performance where I know I’ve achieved the best I possibly can.

I feel the same way about my abstract photography. I enjoy the process and experience of making a photograph. It is also hands on. The feel of the camera in your hand, its weight, the strap around your neck, the connection you make when you bring the camera up to your eye, the physicality of moving around an object, exploring its potential and discovering the best means of photographing it.

Jane photographing the wire bowl used in 'Golden Spirals'
Photographing the wire bowl used in ‘Golden Spirals’

I can easily spend hours at a time in this pursuit too. In a way it’s a very personal and intimate exercise – much like practising an instrument – and one which also contains that great sense of pleasure and satisfaction when you achieve the shot you want.

Embrace the Learning Process

So, in both my music and photography, I enjoy the process as much as the final product. My musical background has taught me the value of patience, persistence and determination – qualities which photographers also need.

But more than that, it’s taught me the value of experimentation, flexibility of approach and to value the learning process itself. To achieve a satisfactory musical performance requires hours of work behind the scenes; hours of trial and error, of learning what works successfully and what doesn’t, and hours of refinement.

Photography is the same.  I work very hard at making my images and sometimes it takes a long time. ‘Golden Spirals’ is a case in point.

Golden Spirals - Abstract Art by Jane Trotter
Golden Spirals

I’m very happy with the final result – but it was a real effort to get! (You can see the learning process I went through to achieve the final image in my Exposed #2 article.)

I created ‘Golden Spirals’ by turning a wire fruit bowl upside down. I’d often looked at this object sitting on my kitchen table and had always thought it held much potential. When I first began to photograph it, my early attempts yielded rather frustrating results. But I knew there was something there. I just hadn’t found it yet. So I kept trying, learning from my mistakes, refining my approach and finally, I created something I was happy with.

The Challenge and Incentive

I think one of the beauties of music and photography is that you can be completely humbled by your craft. You’re fully aware that you never stop learning – there’s potential in everything and always something new – whether it’s a new piece or new subject matter to photograph.

Exploring and being open to new possibilities of interpretation provides a challenge and incentive in both fields of endeavour and sustains our creative spirit.

About the Author

Jane Trotter is an abstract photographer living in Dunedin, New Zealand. Reimagining everyday objects found around the home, Jane transforms them into colourful and dramatic pieces of contemporary art.

Jane Trotter