“The Lady With The Dog” by David Jakelic (Or The Beauty of Unclear Subjects)
The above photo is titled The Lady With The Dog by David Jakelic. For all intents and purposes, it doesn't appear to have a clear subject. In recognition of that tradition, this article does not have a clear subject paragraph (this first one), yet it will be cohesive and you will learn something. Along the same accord, this photograph – the one without the clear subject – is mesmerizing and fantastic.
I think the reason this photograph works is because it gives the mind a lot to think about. There's a great number of contrasting textures to compare and an equal number of tones and patterns. The eye dots all over the photograph, but again I don't find a clear subject. The title gives us some clues and it was cause for me to look about the photo for the dog and the lady. I found neither. In fact, I think my mind played some tricks on me and I have a hunch – the shadow cast on the wall off in the distance – but one is never quite certain. It's simply not clear and that's okay.
The Lady With The Dog actually shoots a hole through one of my own rules: Always Have a Clear Subject. I always write (perhaps “preach” is a better word) about how the rules are designed to understand existing works. I also write that they aren't necessarily meant to serve as a guideline for creating works and I have mentioned that many of these rules can and should be bent or broken. So I'd be a hypocrite if I were to suggest that one of my own rules does not also deserve to be broken or bent. But I never really thought about it until I first laid eyes on David's photo last summer. Full disclosure, I keep a list of photos that I would one day like to feature here at Shutter Photo. David's photograph has been on that list ever since it was uploaded to Flickr nearly 6 months ago. I regularly revisit that list and try to analyze the photos further. But it was difficult for me to figure out exactly why David's photo is so beautiful. Perhaps I was struggling wit the idea that it truly breaks one of my own coveted rules. But sometimes the teacher becomes the student, and I realized that even my personal rules should also be broken.
As for why David's photograph is so beautiful…I believe it's because it is experiential. It's a fine art example of a Where's Waldo book. There's nothing clearly defined as to what I should be looking for. But the viewer is inclined to look. Maybe it's David's choice of titles, though I don't think it's as plain as that. I really do feel that I was drawn into the photograph. There are areas unseen that I'd like to explore. I'd like to check out the ground that the tree is planted in. Is it in a private garden or among a wall of shrubbery? I'd like to follow the alley around the corner of that building to see if perhaps there is someone beyond, or to find the source of the brightest sun in the area. The Lady With The Dog inspires me to embark upon an imaginative journey through this space that I may never see with my own eyes. And even though the subject is not so very clear, the photograph is absolutely beautiful for all of these reasons.
David Jakelic's Flickr photostream is filled with a number of great detail studies of architecture and urban streets, including some great street photography. He is selective about what he uploads to Flickr, a trait that I admire and one that sets his body of work apart from the norm. You can also explore his works through his personal website, which you should check out because it's a distillery of his best works. David can also be found over at Google+.