When I think of texture my mind always thinks of a burlap bag. Why? I guess it is my own personal definition or association with the word. The rough fibers, the feel of the hemp or flax, all of these help give the Burlap a certain feel. But I also think of wine. The silky smoothness and feel of a perfectly aged and aerated wine on the palate. Texture means things both real and imagined.
We say a wine has a complex texture but we are not really referring to the actually feeling of the wine, it’s a liquid after all. Instead we are looking for clues to its imaginary feel. We want a velvety smooth wine, but that is just an imaginary description. Have you ever put velvet in your mouth? I doubt it is as inspiring as a good claret. Like wine, texture in art and photography is not just about the physical sensations discovered when you touch it. In both the painting and photographic realms it is also about the visual imaginative “feel” that a work of art has.
In painting an artist may rely on texture to relay a feeling of heaviness to the viewer. Piling the paint in thick strokes upon the canvas do this. This use of texture coincides with lines, color, and shape to create the illusion that an object is real.
So what is the lowly photographer to do? Photographs do not have paint to supply that 3rd dimension. This is true, but we have our own set off tools to do the job.
In the physical realm to print our pictures on many different kinds of objects. We can give a photograph texture by printing it on a certain canvas; we can even print the image on metal to give it a polished look. I’ve also seen pictures printed on glass so that the light shines through the glass lighting up the picture and giving it a reflective texture.
The photographer can also offer visual texture in an image in several other ways. The most obvious is to create a photograph of a physical texture. A close up portrait of a burlap bag would be an example. The picture itself doesn’t have a physical texture but it does have a visual one. Other objects that can offer texture in photographs include glass, metal, bricks, rocks, water, and wood.
When we see these imagines, a part of the brain that identifies them according to our own experiences through our senses. When I see grass, I don’t have to touch it to know what it feels like in my hands or on my feet. You don’t have to touch molten iron to know it’s hot. My brain and imagination does this for me. The photographer can use this to give the viewer familiarity with the subject of the photograph, thus imparting the experience the photographer wishes.
What are your favorite textures? Do you think of textures when you are taking a photograph?
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