“Last Concert” by Michael Feldklipp (Or Contrast Isn’t Just About Dynamic Range)
The piano reverberates off the walls of the acoustically tuned Academy of Music. The chamber choir, now silent, is poised and ready to break in on its role in this piano concerto. The lights are dim, but you can still make out the ornate woodwork and the tapestries that hang on the walls of this incredible theater. Except that we're not in a theater. And the woodwork is nonexistent. And your camera tells you that your imagination has run away with you again.
This isn't fiction, and I'm not talking about a performance I recently attended. I'm actually speaking about Michael Feldklipp's photograph, Last Concert, which I present to you here. The word that best explains the scene presented to us is juxtaposition – elements stacked side by side to exhibit the contrast between them. Michael's photo offers a great deal of contrasting elements. An ornate grand piano contrasts starkly to the simple wooden chair. The unkempt plaster walls, the graffiti, the disheveled drop cloths and the plain windows are not what one would expect of any room that might contain such an instrument of beauty. The only color in this photo is of the curtains and the graffiti (and it's awesome that they are similar in hue). The fact that we wouldn't expect to see a piano here is the whole basis of this photo. It is unexpected, abstract and somewhat surreal. And thus you see the beauty in the ugly. They key is the contrasting elements, and that's why Michael captured the shot and treated its post-processing and handling with the utmost respect.
Too often, we find ourselves focusing on the technical aspects of a photo. We strive to maximize the dynamic range so that we can get contrasting colors or shades. The technical side of this medium is what separates the good from the bad. It can be what makes or breaks a photo. But I ask you this: Is a technically perfect photo a great photo? Not necessarily. You can expose a perfect shot and you can get all of the settings absolutely perfect. But if your subject or your design intent is lost, you don't have a photograph. You only have a failed attempt. And that is why I feature Michael's photo here today: He has found a contrast that has little or nothing to do with the camera. He's identified an interesting subject, one with a story, and he has presented it to us with his own artistic styling. And what a fantastic shot we have.
If you like photos featuring urban exploration or modern ruins, than you best head on over to Michael Feldklipp's photostream and follow his work closely. Last Concert is just one of hundreds of great photos featuring bizarrely beautiful ugliness that can be found in such ruins. Personally, I admire his style: His use of muted tones and colors that only adds to the eeriness and surrealism of each photograph. I think you will enjoy his work as well.