A friend and I were talking as we were out shooting one day. He said that his wife asked why he photographed leaves. He responded that he was attracted by the textures, colors, shapes, etc.; in other words, aspects we see but which do not translate easily into words. The leaves were more a platform for exhibiting these features than they were objects in and of themselves, at least for my friend.
Words are important as ingredients of communication but unless one is doing documentary photography where it is extremely important to show exactly what is there – the aftermath of a storm, the condition of a house that is for sale, an accident scene – the features of the scene – the light, textures, shapes, colors – are often more important than the fact that we are photographing leaves, trees, reflections in water.
On the way home it struck me that maybe this is at least part of the answer why photographers are so often attracted to crumbling buildings. These buildings can’t really be adequately described by words; pictures, images, are needed and what is interesting about them is not so much the crumbling structures themselves but the textures, colors and shapes. Compare that to, for example, describing the outside of a new home: it is a colonial with four bedrooms and three full baths. New white vinyl siding, azaleas in front. You can get a pretty good picture in your mind of what the place looks like, just from those few words. But what words would describe this:
It would be difficult to capture what this place looks like with words. Could it be that the attraction to crumbling, decaying buildings is that they deviate from what is considered “normal” and can’t be described well with words? The only adequate representation of something like this is an image, a picture. The shapes, textures, colors and tonalities can’t be described in words.