Subject vs Style

A few weeks back, I was dining, seated outdoors, late afternoon, at my favorite Italian bistro, Numero 28, in downtown Austin, and enjoying my best-loved menu dish, Eggplant Lasagna. Yummie.

Seated right beside me, were two very lovely ladies, both mid-50s, and dressed like artist types. Gorgeous-both of them.

The scene of them together, laughing, loving, enjoying life, was truly picture-perfect.

When I go out to eat, alone, I generally carry a man-purse, that includes a book to read and a Field Notes kraft notepad to write and journal in.

On this afternoon, I just subtly stared and gawked at the table and the ladies beside me. I couldn’t help myself.

One of the women had strikingly beautiful, long, gray hair, with attention-getting, red-framed eyeglasses.

She was also wearing a monochromatic, cotton scarf that seemed to complement her jean jacket, skirt, the table decor, and environment she was sitting in. She was also sporting some killer, angle-high, well-worn, leather boots.

This was a woman who thought about the whole attire package before she left the house.

What I noticed about the second woman, equally mesmerizing and attractive, was how the filtered light, through the trees, was backlighting her shoulder-length, curly locks. Wow. She had on a burnt-orange, leather jacket, that perfectly matched her strawberry-blonde hair and classic fedora.

They both had on enchanting necklaces which seemed to sparkle in the afternoon sun.

To add to this strong remembrance, there was a streak of light, delicately cutting across the table, highlighting their Mista Verde and Neapolitan pizza, which they both were sharing.

I’m certain they noticed me noticing them. Oh well.

Why am I describing all this to you?

Because, in photographic speak, this is how I approach and see the world.

I see and appreciate the world more through style than subjects.

Subjects are people, places, and things. Style is light, color, design.

Having a style approach, rather than a subject approach, to photography, makes me a candidate for the worst fucking journalist that ever walked the planet. I just don’t have the gift of seeing subject-based content as journalists do. I’m not wired like this. Nor do I care to be wired like this.

On the other hand, concentrating on style rather than subject, also makes me a candidate for a mighty fine artist.

I notice details that many photographers don’t.

I seem to always see and recognize elements of light, color, and design, long before my head and heart see the very subjects I shoot.

As a matter of fact, in so many of my photographs, as you have already probably noticed, the subject is often… the light, the color, the design.

Sometimes the context is more important than the content.

I’m not saying that I never see subjects (buildings, food plates, portraits, still lifes, interiors, skylines, landscapes, etc).

Of course, I do. But it’s often the light, color, and design that pull me into a scene and also the elements that keep me in a scene.

Visually speaking, as a photographer, I’m less interested in subjects that aren’t, first and foremost, bathed in the right sort of light, color, and design.



Jack Hollingsworth