Aug 19, 2021
2 mins read
Photography has long been acknowledged as a 2 dimensional art form. Sure, there's some technical advances in 3D and stereoscope imagery, but you still need special gear to see those photos. But if you work at it, you can create images with visible texture - photos that you can feel. You just have to know what to look for.
When I am visiting historic sites -- and in Asia there are a gazillion of them -- I am always on the lookout for elements that are well-worn, or portions of the buildings that have aged not-so-gently. The details seen on those parts of history are usually overlooked by millions of other. But to me, they are like a magnet. I just love the visible texture on the walls, or the sculptures, or anything else that people just walk past without a second glance.
I probably elicit more than a few stares and some under-breath "what's he doing?" being muttered by onlookers as I happily snap away at dirty walls and the polished bronze of statues. But it's those photos that bring back strong memories of a place to me. It's the textures, and how they feel (yes I touch them, like everyone else), that I remember when I see those photos again years later.
The golden wall photo was taken in Bangkok's Wat Phra Kaew, part of the Grand Palace complex. This temple has so many gold tiled buildings (probably not real gold), that on a bright day, it's hard to look around. There must be a million tiny square tiles that make up the wall covering on this stupa. And a good ten thousand of them are touched by practically every visitor he walks by it. But you can almost feel the grooves between the tiles, just by looking at the image.
The bronze gargoyle heads are part of a massive cauldron in Beijing's Palace Museum -- better known as the Forbidden City. To get a sense of scale, this heads and the ring that connects them are about 2 foot wide. The cauldron itself is taller than most of the people who stand next to it. There are 4 sets of these gargoyles around the edge of the bowl.
These cauldrons (there are many) are visited, and touched, by millions and millions of people every year. You can see the bronze slowly being removed from the bowl, touch after touch. As I stood next to this cauldron, every person who approached it touched one or both of the gargoyle's heads, and some touched the space between them as well. It was an exercise in patience, waiting for a moment without some hands on the bowl. I have plenty of those photos, too, but like this version more.
Like the gold stupa wall, you can practically feel the texture in this image, just by looking at it. The destroyed bronze that's slowly being removed after millions of fingers grazed it is visible at a glance.
Keep an eye out for these opportunities when you're travelling with your camera. It's not always the big pictures that evoke the strongest memories. Sometimes life is seen in the details. Details you can touch.