Harold Davis | Constructing an image from the materials of nature

Harold Davis contributed the very first guest post in the Where and What is Beauty? series that I started on this blog in Sept 2017.

On 10 Nov, Harold published a new post on his blog that provides further explanation and elaborates on his original discussion. I found this extremely interesting and valuable, and obtained his permission to reblog the new post in its entirety on Exploring Colour as a continuation of On Beauty and Art

Constructing an image from the materials of nature by Harold Davis
Petals of the Rainbow
Petals of the Rainbow © Harold Davis

In a recent article on art and beauty, I wrote:

I would rather think of myself as an inventor more than a discoverer of beauty. My hope is to use the echoes of beauty to reinforce the spiritual, and to create a sense of order that is not too orderly in all the romantic and ecstatic chaos of the universe.
This is the best role of the artist whatever toolset is used: to construct from the smallest and most eternal blocks and bits and pieces, and build up something bold and (dare we say it) beautiful from the nothing that always sits ready to engulf us.
If we can take and make beauty in this way with our art, then we’ve added to the sum of good that is in the universe, created beauty, and elevated the sense of the spiritual. This is the highest calling of the artist, and there is not much one can add to it except to do so without fear or favoritism, and to avoid pulling one’s punches because of the all-too-human desire to be loved.

I am not knocking photos that say “This is a waterfall.” There are exquisite images of waterfalls and other subjects that are representations by some excellent artists, and I often attempt this kind of imagery myself, where some of the emotional appeal comes from the viewer’s belief—or suspension of disbelief—that they are looking at something natural.

But the key word in the preceding paragraph is “representations”—as a two dimensional construct, a photo cannot actually be the three-dimensional waterfall. Most of the time, there is much more monkeying around with the pixels of reality than even this reductio ad absurdum argument implies.

The gist of my argument is that everything is a construction. So why not think expansively and expressively? Art, and digital photography in particular, is a big tent that reaches from apparently representational images of nature to constructs made from a variety of materials, including those supplied by nature, and includes myriad other genres as well.

Fortification on Black 2
Fortification on Black 2 © Harold Davis

In the spirit of constructing art using natural materials as the building blocks for the construct, the two images shown with this story are constructs made from flower petals, photographed on a light box on a white background, and converted to a black background using LAB color techniques and Photoshop blending modes.

To follow the path from petals on a white light to a colorful construction on black, check out It Starts with a Petal and Ends with a Twist of Fate!

Images and Text © Harold Davis. All Rights Reserved.

Note from Exploring Colour:  Click on the images above to enlarge. To view in much greater detail, click through to Harold’s original article and its well worth doing this!

18 thoughts on “Harold Davis | Constructing an image from the materials of nature

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    1. Yes there’s a lot to think about in what Harold has written – I saw you’d read On Beauty and Art as well. It was really challenging for me to get to grips with what Harold was really saying but I’ve re-read it many times and I think I have a much better understanding of it now. I learned such a lot!

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  1. Thanks for the great comments and discussion. I’ve written the following clarifications (in answer to a question):

    – My context is photography. Everyone knows that a mixed-media collage is a construction. But it is not as obvious on its face that a photograph is (or can be) a construction as well.

    – I am not (and never would) suggest that my way is the only way. There are many photographers who identify what they do as presenting nature, or their feelings about being in nature at a particular time and place. Of course, that is fine for them.

    Very best wishes in art and creation to all!


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  2. The floral arrangements are beautiful and I agree with Harold that beauty is that what we create. But not exclusively. I see beauty and I create beauty. I believe in god and he is the biggest creator ever. And he gave us the possibilities to create also. And in the process to create something that wasn’t there yet is such unbelievable power und delight. It’s a strong force!

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    1. The thoughts you’ve shared here are really beautiful Simone! “I see beauty and I create beauty” made me also think of gifted writers and poets and the beauty they share from what they see., but especially powerful when combined with carefully selected photos (like your guest post) or with other art. So uplifting and inspiring!

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        1. My dear Jodi, you already DO think “expansively and expressively”. I actually referred Harold to your recent poinsettia mixed-media artwork as an example of what you do and I’d like to share with you one thing from his email… “My context is photography. Everyone knows that a mixed-media collage is a construction. But it is not as obvious on its face that a photograph is (or can be) a construction as well.” It was a light bulb moment for me! Its so true isn’t it? With his flower petal examples above, the “construction” aspect of the art is not as obvious to the viewer as the “construction” inherent in your mixed-media collage! And it really helped me understand where he’s coming from 🙂

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