The view from a hilltop is a broad continuous vista which moves and changes as you turn your head – the image revolving through the variances in foreground and background, aspect and light. It is not focussed by framing, but loose and serendipitous to the mind. It can be adored as beautiful scenery or disappointing because of the occurrence of scarring and blight.
I once tried to rate scenery on a value scale as if one could measure the aesthetic ‘quality’ in a way you might judge a photographic competition. There are many ‘intangibles’ involved in peoples perception, memories and sentiments which clouded and distorted the scores; and ultimately the published results never gained traction with planners, or politicians.
I was hoping to see governments legislate to protect highly rated scenic areas by imposing development restrictions and codes of practice. But my approach at the time assumed that the natural is always preferable to the built-up, that construction always has an ugly over-tone, the insidious source of scenic disharmony. Now, I admit, it is obvious that this is not always the case.
Rarely would we perceive ugliness in the form of a bridge or ford across a river, or the presence of a sailing boat drifting across a lake. And one must admit that man-made can be truly beautiful – the Tag Mahal being the supreme example, and the Sydney Opera House another. Still I must impose a word of caution, for the pictures we see of these iconic buildings are always ‘framed’. The image is captured. Peripheral vision is lost – absent from the equation. We are not seeing any of the shabbiness around and beyond, the despoliation evoked by a combination of paving, noise, signage, large billboards, or the clutter and garbage that seems inevitable in urbanised areas.
All this, of course, illustrates the magic of framing, such as with this photograph from a popular viewing point in Paris. There is something lacking in a scene until it is framed, just as there is in a painter’s masterpiece on canvas.
I love how Albert Namatjira alerted us Australians to the beauty in colour and form of the Flinders Ranges landscapes, but without framing, the capturing of the vistas in a particular expression of weather and light creating the striking imprint on our minds would be lost in a miscellany of other experiences, other views, other happenings as out eyes wandered.
I feel sentimental when I view this photograph of Dorothy as a young schoo girl – the curls, the eyes, the smile I fell in love with – this one all the more memorable for she is captured beautifully presented but for missing her right glove. It provokes more memories of our courting days – relaxing on the beach, nights on the dance floor, holding hands in the moonlight as I escorted her home, and those pensive moments walking a rainforest trail together.
Yet it is the ‘framed’ portrait hanging on the wall, the pictures in the scrapbook, the wedding photos, that most delight and fire up the mind, that bring the tears to my eyes.
They are among my favourite things. They are extraordinary.They resound with magic. They are precious beyond comparison. They are ‘framed’ in my mind.