Category - In Harmony

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If you’ve been reading about my background on the website you’ll definitely know by now that music has been a huge part of my life and was my first creative endeavour before I even began to think about photography.

Over the next few months, I plan to do a series of short 'In Harmony' articles examining why I like to take abstract images – in particular, to what extent my musical background and training has influenced my photography.

On the surface you may think these two disciplines have very little in common, but I hope to reveal that there is, in fact, much overlay in the creative process.

Treble Clef - Abstract Art by Jane Trotter

Treble Clef

Bestow greater meaning & significance

Let’s consider the word ‘transform’ – it holds great significance for me, both as a musician and as a photographer.  When I’m playing a piece, or teaching a student, I’m taking the basic notes on a page and transforming them into sound with meaning, structure, character and emotion.  As an abstract photographer I also begin with an object in its ‘basic state’ and then transform it into something beyond itself, hopefully also bestowing a greater meaning and significance than it otherwise would have possessed.

At an even more fundamental level, musicians translate patterns and interpret shape, both visually and aurally.  First and foremost, we learn to link what we see with what we hear.  Visually we’re analysing and interpreting all of the patterns presented to us on the score, recognising pitch and melodic shape, rhythmic construction and how phrases inter-relate and complement one another.

Excerpt from Chopin Polonaise Op.71 No.2

Excerpt from Chopin Polonaise Op.71 No.2

Responding to shape & pattern

Having thought about all of this, it came as no surprise to me that I respond primarily to ‘shape’ and ‘pattern’ within an image.  While colour and colour combinations are also very important, I tend to use colour as a means of highlighting and dramatising these aspects.

So having an appreciation and understanding of form, balance, pattern, shape, structure and correct proportion are all necessary tools for a musician.  I’ve come to realise that in my photography, I need and use exactly the same set of skills when composing my images.

In abstract photography, often there aren’t the usual frames of reference for the viewer; they’re not looking at anything immediately recognisable or discernible.  Developing a keen awareness of how I choose to analyse and organise the component shapes and patterns within my image, making a meaningful visual statement, is very much akin to being aware of the structural and musical characteristics of a piece and deciding how best to translate those into a meaningful musical performance.

Effect is greater than the sum of its parts

As with a piece of music, the image itself begins with an intrinsic form, patterning and structure to help convey its meaning and intent.  But then a transformation takes place where the effect on the listener or viewer is far greater than the sum of its parts.  We see and hear something more, experience something outside of ourselves and connect on a very personal and intimate level.

Such is the transformative power of music and abstract photography.

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