I’ve been listening to Walter Isaacson’s, Leonardo Da Vinci, on Audible. While I haven’t enjoyed it as much as his biographies on Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin, I find I am connect more though Walter’s latest work. Being something of an interdisciplinary and a procrastinator there is a resonance with the famous Florentine. While at only a fraction of a percent on Leonardo’s scale I, too, have a wide array of interests powered by curiosity. A Jack-of-all-trades I want to know a little something about as many things as possible. Of course Leonardo took this to a mind-boggling level; a Leonardo-of-all-trades and the master of all. He stands as the pinnacle Renaissance Man, even if he left most of his work unfinished or unpublished. Of course, he was more interested in pursing art, mathematics, engineering, optics, fluid dynamics, and stage craft to acquire knowledge for its own sake. He was less concerned with finishing things and reaping external rewards that motivate many of us.
Much of Isaacson’s biography covers Leonardo’s work as a painter. While I was a mediocre and frustrated painter at best who never enjoyed the practice, these chapters have sparked connection to my photography. Isaacson tells us Leonardo was a master of movement in his works. He instructs us that a work should not capture a moment as frozen and rigid. Instead it is necessary to convey what was happening one moment ago in the past transitioning to what will happen in the next moment in the future. This fundamental cornerstone built an emotional and narrative quality in Leonardo’s work. He wrote about its importance many times across the decades in his famous notebooks.
Taking this maxim from the preeminent Renaissance master has me thinking I would do well to incorporate movement into my own work. I want to create photography that flows from one moment into the next. Better this than a stale image, emotionless and locked in time. In a weird way, armed with Leonardo’s thoughts on the matter, I can picture him judging my work with cutting critique. In this way I want to be sure I it will pass muster.
Last night on the marsh I had my first chance at capturing movement under the auspices of Maestro. The first arctic air mass of the year arrived in New Jersey yesterday. With it a biting north west wind to serve as wake up call that winter is coming. The sky was cast with a deep orange-purple glow that only shows when a serious winter trough swings through. Set to this dreamy backdrop, invasive phragmites bent low before the stiff breeze; bowing in unified motion under the power of wind. Here was my chance at movement. Using my 35mm lens, soft focus, and a hint of blur the viewer can imagine where the phragmites were a glimpse prior. Now compare that with where they will be in the next eye blink. The movement brings action and reality to an otherwise still looking scene. This better conveys the cold, windy, unsettled reality on the marsh last night. This stands in narrative opposition to what could otherwise look like a placid blue hour on the marsh.
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