The images above are from an exhibit titled Dogs:Gods. Photography by Tim Flach at the Dudinsky fine Arts Gallery in Zurich, Switzerland. The title is telling, isn’t it? Not your typical documentary approach. Photographer Tim Flach documents animals, and captures the spirit and personality of his subjects beautifully. The sculptural qualities of these images are like the stuff of human portraiture. “Painstakingly lit, and carefully cropped for maximum graphic impact and animated by telling gestures, these photographs place us in an intimate relationship” with the subject. Tim “brings his subjects into such close focus that we begin to read their poses and gestures as we would the body language of a human figure, face or hand”. Tim Flach
Tim was featured in an article in Communication Arts last June. He discussed his approach, and the importance of interacting with his subjects, to take advantage of the personality and spontaniety of the time they spend together. All the best planning is important, but it is the moment of expression that is key to conveying the essence of the being within. One must be open to the experience. “This is the idea of really seeing, not just looking. If your reasoning mind distracts you from seeing then you are the poorer: less likely to reveal something that you find intriguing, that resonates. There is a sense of wonderment about the complexity of nature, and I am often reminded and excited by that with the subject matter I approach. I am in awe of nature, but while my subject may be animal, at the same time I am exploring things to do with what it is to be human. I am often reminded of the Bill Brandt quote, where he said that photographers must see more intensely and reveal a sense of wonderment. “(“It is part of the photographer’s job to see more intensely than most people do. He must have and keep in him something of the receptiveness of the child who looks at the world for the first time or of the traveller who enters a strange country.”)
“You always need some kind of framework to start, but also you need to be open to what you observe. Often the most interesting things are the surprise obstructions that you encounter on your presumed journey. But without the plan, you do not have the framework that gets you inquiring in the first place, or creates the situations where interesting things can happen. The photographer’s surprises become surprises for the viewer, too. You set out to do one thing but are open to changing direction as you see opportunities. When I brought these fruit bats into the studio, I had an idea to fly them around and then retouch them against a night sky. This was not a great idea, particularly as fruit bats are not that wonderful at flying by bat standards. Then I noticed the bats seemed to be almost chatting away together in the corner of the studio where they were hanging. So I opened out to the potential of that, saw something new in the idea of their personalities and the relationship between them rather than the flying, and asked the handlers to bring them back for another day where I could approach it with the fresh objectives.”
For more information on the work of Tim Flach, visit his website www.timflach.com.
Image credits: 1,2 www.timflach.com, 3,4,5 Communication Arts, June 2010