07.08.2020 What does detail mean?

Date: 7th August 2020
Location: Isle of Wight
Category: Foto Fridays

… For me? And you?

I wrote in a recent Foto Friday post that detail is my visual language but what does that really mean for me? For you?

So, yes I collect moments in visual form. For me, a moment does not necessarily include people, special places, events, exotic landscapes or expensive trips. It is defined by something I notice or pay attention to in the moment and the detail that the moment reveals – the detail can be as mundane as the light falling on my favourite mug or the shapes I find in a embedded on a wooden table. Philippa Stanton writes that

“really paying attention to everything around you sounds simple, but it actually demands a level of curiosity and observation that most people are not used to exercising. And it takes time”.

Conscious Creativity

She is right. It is not easy for us to pay attention to what is around us. We are used to burying ourselves in screens of some sort – phones, computers, TVs… I know that I used to walk around with my eyes metaphorically closed.
You get what I mean. 

So how did I learn to pay attention so closely?
Good question, and one I’ll try to answer another time, because I have a feeling it will require me telling lots of stories! What I really want to talk about today is the details. 

So I’ve paid attention, noticed something – how does that come out in my photography?

The details that I find in my immediate surroundings are both contextual and abstract at the same time. It goes without saying that the detail exists in a bigger context. For example, in the images above, the details are rather abstract – highlighting shape, line and texture.

But, I know that the circles are on a coffee table in a favourite coffee shop in the town where I live on the Isle of Wight, in England, and that I was there with my son having iced coffee and bubble waffles. Yet, for anyone else they are an abstraction – if I hadn’t told you, you wouldn’t know they’re part of a table – you’d see wood, shapes, textures and composition. I see the context and can recall the related memory. 

So how does expressing myself through detail help me connect to my memories and to collect memories?

Well, let’s see if I can explain this. I’ve written about collections. I’ve written about how I’ve trained myself to see the world differently and in a lot of detail – I am constantly honing in on details and mentally categorising what I see into collections or themes. I often don’t set out to take a memory photo – my senses are primed to look for details.

  • I take photos first and foremost because of the details that have caught my eye – in these images, it was the juxtaposition of the circles and lines
  • Then, I sort and delete, process and transfer the ones I like into collections to keep them organised.
  • Those are the practical aspects which have helped me to take a shot.

In browsing through what I have stored, I build a memory around the shot and attribute meaning to it – connect it with an event, person, create a story around it. In the end, the photo becomes more than an image in a folder – it links to the specific memory through association. 

It all starts with paying attention to my surroundings, noticing the detail – which nudges me to take a shot.

How can this help you?

If you are a photographer, you could try this process to see if it works for you. – adapt it. If you are another kind of artist, you may well collect images in this way as inspiration for your art as Stanton does. If you have any other ideas about how this might apply to your own creativity, please share them!


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