Mundane Subjects

I have to admit that I’m still stewing over a comment made by one of the PSA judges about my strawberry picture… that it was a mundane subject. Okay, I suppose there are mundane pictures, and I suspect that I’m guilty of producing my fair share of them, but there is no such thing as a mundane subject. Don’t let anyone ever convince you that the subject in front of your eyes is not worth making a picture of because it’s too mundane or ordinary.

You don’t need to travel to Yosemite to elevate a photograph above the level of mundane. It doesn’t have to always be golden hour light. Visually interesting images can be made in your own back yard, or kitchen, or in any number of different lighting conditions. Photography reveals the essence of the world we live in… the colors, shapes, textures and details of nature and everyday life around us. Nothing should ever be called mundane.

“Artists filter the natural world through the lens of their unique perceptions. Landscapes are never just landscapes but a human experience of what is there – as individual as a fingerprint.” – Nicky Leach, Arches National Park Where Rock Meets Sky.

3 responses on “Mundane Subjects

  1. jamiezeez

    What does any photograph evoke? In your case it could be color, taste, a memory, a meal remembered or simply a pleasing composition. There are so many possibilities, but an artist cannot expect a similar vision or experience or perspective from a judge asked to comment on what he or she sees or feels or doesn’t see, for a given piece of artwork. If you believe a comment is objectively relevant consider it, if not, just move on and stay true to yourself and your vision.

  2. Bob Peterson

    It can be difficult to leave your emotion about a photograph at home when entering a competition and then when getting judged. Last year I entered a photograph of 3 rocks splitting/falling from a ledge. Judges basically wondered why bother with that image. Every time I’m in the San Raphael river drainage I go look at it. The judges just did not have the connection that I did and the photograph did not invoke it either. That is our challenge. The comments still hurt a little bit but, as someone famous said, stay true to yourself and your vision.

  3. Edward Kunzelman Post author

    I can fully appreciate that a judge may not find my picture to have the same impact for him as it does for me, and therefore judge or score it lower than I expect. If he can offer a reason – citing a lack of depth, or texture, for example – so much the better. However, the aspect of his position as judge which I can’t tolerate is him deciding whether the subject itself is mundane or not. That is simply not for him to decide, because that turns into a purely subjective decision. That would be like me scoring a macro picture of a fly low because I hate flies. After all, they are very mundane… and a nuisance. As a judge, one must separate his personal opinions of the subject from the quality of the photograph.

    If a judge asks “why bother,” you say because you felt some sort of emotional connection to the subject. If the essence of the image gets lost in interpretation, then you go back and try making the picture again. But you don’t blame the subject, or decide it’s not worth the effort just because a judge thinks the subject is too ordinary. A judge who makes that decision should never be a judge… because their comments confuse people who are trying to find their own personal vision of photography.

Leave a Reply