Why are we attracted to tragedy? Why is it that one cannot look away from a car crash? We as humans are attracted to pain and terror. Greeks had comedies as well as tragedies, where there were no happy endings. But life is the same way as it there aren’t always happy endings. The world is an imperfect place. But without these imperfections, how else would one distinguish what is beautiful? If everything was beautiful, beauty would not exist. It is this fact that raises the question of what beauty really is. Many define beauty as colorful, neat, and smooth, but the truth is beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Society, personal preferences, and life experiences are all factors in what we see as beautiful. One person can see a dog as cute while another finds it ugly. This is where the picturesque came about. Something that is irregular, asymmetric, and “unusual” but yet visual attractive and appealing. Something that wouldn’t normally be deemed beautiful yet is strikingly appealing to the eye. There is something hauntingly beautiful about a lightning storm. It is messy, unpredictable, and to a lot of people terrifying. It isn’t “neat” by any stretch of the imagination but it still is photographed, painted, and put in artwork all the time. The same goes for storms, battles, and destruction of any nature. Artwork doesn’t always depict “beauty” because beauty does not have a clear cut definition. But artwork often does depict something appealing and attractive to the eye even if we are unsure why it is.
When I was a kid I loved to explore. My town of DuPont, WA wasn’t very big but as a small child it was the whole world to me. I lived in the suburbs and all the houses that were around me were very nice and almost identical to each other. There must have been only about ten different house designs total that simply repeated themselves across the town. That being said, although the town was pretty, everything kind of blended together and left it a bit dull. So when I explored, I explored all the trails, forests, and fenced off areas. These are the places that grabbed my attention. One time I hopped a fence and walked along this open field for what seemed like forever and came across an abandoned shack with graffiti all over it. I thought this discovery was incredible! Why did I find the broken down shack so appealing? There is a bunch of beautifully built houses all around my town and I don’t give them a second glance, yet I find a broken down shack in the woods and I find it amazing. It was because the graffiti covered shack was out of the ordinary…it was different! It was unlike anything I had ever seen before and I was drawn to it. It had so much mystery behind it and left me wondering its story. Why was it there? Who does it belong to? The imperfection and mystery behind drew me to it. Experiences like these made me want to explore even more and discover possibly abandoned. Now whenever I see an abandoned building I am instantly drawn to it.
The passions I have to explore drove me to take this photograph of an abandoned church near my hometown. When I was visiting my hometown, I remembered the old broken down church that lay in the outskirts of town. It was just as I remembered it. Father time was taking its toll on this once active church. I think this photo demonstrates Gilpin’s idea of the picturesque very well. A sense of ruin is present upon looking at this church. Bricks are missing and the whole structure looks like it is generally falling apart. The photo leaves much to the imagination though. It is unclear exactly how old the building is and what the building even is without any prior information. The mystery and ruin surrounding the church is what got me so interested in it. The church shows collapse as well as a rough and broken texture, something that Gilpin thought was essential for creating a picturesque scene. When I took the photo, there was a lot of light in the corners and made it appear to fade out to white. So instead of cropping those corners out, I simply added in a black border to add some contrast and make it the image stand out better. The image gives a feeling reminiscent of ancient Greece or rather the ruins of ancient Greece. The grass and plants growing on the stairs give it a sense of decay and ruin just like that of ancient Greece. Not to mention that the church is made of brick, suggesting that though old, it was a very nice church. The picturesque scene here is prevalent with its representation of ruin and rough texture. A true example of how a crumbling church can still provide a sense of “beauty”.
My hometown was right next to the Puget Sound, something I was unaware of when I was little. So one day while exploring trails and hopping a few fences, our friends and I see water over the horizon. We end up having to go down a giant hill, cross train tracks, and carefully step down a steep pile of rocks until we finally found ourselves in a secret beach! We couldn’t believe what we discovered! Obviously it was not really secret, but it was very secluded and not much of the public knew about it since it was so hard to get to. The special thing about this beach though was that when it was low tide, a sunken ship was revealed in the water. We felt as though we had just found buried treasure. Just like the shack and church alike, so much mystery surrounded this ship. It was made of concrete and it was cracked in half and to top it all off there wasn’t anything in it. Not a single thing. This was very disappointing and left so many questions unanswered. Why was it there? What was it for? How old was it? The fact that there were virtually no clues for us to formulate an answer to these questions, it was up to our imaginations to come up with a story. The shipwreck soon was talked about around friends and classmates and soon almost everyone had heard about or seen it. I believe this is a very good example of Burke and his theory of the sublime. If a normal ship sailed near the waters of the secret beach, it would hardly be interesting to anybody. But the fact that there was a shipWRECK, everybody needed to see it. We are drawn to destruction and the emotions that it evokes. When taking this image, I took into consideration Kodak’s tips for nature photos. I made the point of interest off center, which in this case was the shipwreck. Also, I had my friend’s brother stand at the water as to give a sense of scale of the ship’s size. In order to give this photo my own contemporary perspective, I turned up the contrast in order to make the “cloudy day” colors more intense as well as gave it vignette edges. The composition of the photo relates very much with Gilpin’s idea of picturesque as well. The photo depicts distance as opposed to an up close shot of the ship and the middle of the photo is bright while the sides and foregrounds are dark. This was the main purpose of the vignette edges.
This last picture gives a similar feel to the picture of the old church. They are different buildings but look as if they could be the same one. This photo however I used a different angle than the one of the church. Instead of taking the photo straight on I took it from the ground pointing up. Grass was in the way so I simply used Kodak’s tip for great pictures and locked the focus on the building. I gave a border to this photo as well to help it stand out and not fade out to white. Unlike the church photo though, I believe this picture gives a better sense of the sublime. It has a very haunting feel and sense of terror. There is less sunlight compared to the church photo giving it a more dreadful feeling. Not to mention when you look into all the windows, there is only darkness. Fear is present among looking at this photo. And fear is the most powerful emotion there is, even more powerful than love. That is what the Edmun Burke was saying in his ideas of the sublime. It is a fact that I think all people deep down know but do not want to admit. Fear is stronger than love. This sounds like something a villain would say and maybe it is the pessimistic way of looking at it. But put someone under intense fear and you will be surprised how even the most loving person will act. This unknown building is located also on the outskirts of my old town and is known for being a haunted house. I feel it is a very good representation of the power of fear and terror because even though there is nothing at all in the building…people still dread going inside because it is “haunted”. Something that is simply urban legend still provokes enough emotion to steer many people away from this harmless building.
My love for exploring and nature gave me an advantage I believe in discovering picturesque in the world. Seeing things that were lost in time fill me with great wonder about why it’s there and what happened to it! It has helped me see beauty in the things that are maybe not considered all that beautiful. But beauty holds many forms and happiness is not the only emotion. “Good” cannot exist without “bad” and vice versa. I believe if it appeals to you or can evoke emotions within you than it is beautiful and it is art.