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Exemplary Mention-Ashleigh Fletcher

Exemplary Mention-Ashleigh Fletcher
Leg and grain, Hurunui. Copyright Ashleigh Fletcher.

Leg and grain, Hurunui. Copyright Ashleigh Fletcher.

“It is one of the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive.” – C. W. Leadbeater

“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.”  ― Ansel Adams

Kia ora tatou:

Every so often, as a photography judge, I get to dip into a genuine treasure chest  and see photographs  by people with real talent, who are producing great work without a headful of knowledge, people who are unencumbered by the need to win awards and please others. And I get really excited about the future of photography…

Not long ago I was asked to judge the photographic section of the Hawarden A&P show, and I agreed, since it is a small thing I can do for the wonderful district in which I live. I have become aware that there are a small group of photographers who live under the camera club radar, who meet informally and do their own thing, and I was keen to see what was going on. I have become increasingly aware that there is huge talent out there on the plains beyond the valley of camera club photography, enormous talents who live an alternate life on Flickr and places like that, some of whom, to plagiarise Grey, are born to blush unseen and waste their sweetness on the desert air, and I want to do whatever I can to bring their work to greater prominence.

When the photographs arrived at my home for judging, and we sorted them out into the various categories, my jaw dropped open. There were some astonishing photographs here, from people who did not have letters, and who clearly did not know much about the technique of photography, but whose eye was fresh and clear, and whose pictures exhibited a rare and wonderful clarity. There was a freshness and honesty about them which really got my attention.

As soon as I saw this image, i immediately suspected that the author was young, because his/her seeing had not been dulled by adult experience. I asked if the author was young, and Lucy, who has done a huge job putting this competition  together, agreed. When I looked at more of Ashleigh’s entries I was fascinated by the fact that her photographs reflected how we actually see, rather than how we think we see.

So to this photograph…

This is a very simple  but immensely powerful photograph, in which the lower half of a clearly male leg in boots, worn gaiters and those ubiquitous grey works socks was standing on a pile of grain. Strong sidelighting helps bring out the texture in both the grain and the hairy leg. Notice how the tonalities in the leg progress from highlights along the left side through the penumbra section where the individual hairs are highlighted to a shadowed area, which has held off pure shadow by the golden light reflected from the grain. The grain is piled in small mountains which echo the out-of-focus hills in the background. A small shadow on the bottom left of the frame echoes the shadow cast by the leg and the two clumps of trees and the top right-hand of the picture. Notice how the height of the grain on the right-hand edge of the picture almost perfectly matches and balances the combination of sky, trees and land on the left-hand side of the photograph. This is a picture made by a photographer who has a natural eye for composition and light. Notice also how the leg is placed centrally, where it should be, and that there is no attempt to slavishly obey the often creativity-sapping Rule-of-Thirds. In fact I suspected that the photographer had never heard of it, and I would strongly suggest that if she chooses to find out about it, she ignores it for as long as possible and relies upon her own intuition and vision, which to my mind are clearly superior. There is warmth and reality in this picture, and it is a photograph in the pure sense of the word, at once the observation of a simple moment and yet the expression of something far more iconic. This photograph says so little and yet it says so much.

I give it a DIWIST award (Damn, i wish I shot that!).

When I contacted Ashleigh and asked if she would mind me sharing it, I asked her if she could tell me a little bit about herself. Ashley is 17 years old, and in her last year at high school. She lives in the Hurunui on a sheep and beef farm, and her family own a contracting business. In her own words:

I started taking photos when I was 14 or 15 with a wee Canon digital camera.  I’ve always loved capturing anything rural, such as landscape, people, buildings and animals. In the past few years a few people have acknowledged that I have a good talent in photography and I absolutely love taking photos. I have never taken a course, or studied photography at school so I’ve learnt about it all on my own really. I still don’t own a big camera, and all my photos so far have been taken on a standard Sony digital camera. Lucky for me my parents have purchased a Canon EOS 1100D digital SLR Twin Lens Kit for my upcoming birthday. I currently want to attend University and do a Bachelor of Commerce with Agriculture next year. And hopefully someday own my own Cafe/Gallery featuring my own photographs. This photo is of my Dad’s leg while I was helping him cover a truck and trailer load of grain nearing the end of the season.

Ashleigh, when you do get your own Gallery, please drop me a line and invite me to the opening. I cannot wait to see what will be on the walls!

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