Abstractism & Symbolism

الأصل في الرمز هو أن يجئ لاحقاً لما يرمز له، إذ تعرض لنا حالة أو فكرة، نريد تمييزها مما قد يختلط بها من أشباهها أو أضدادها، فنبحث لها عن رمز يميزها، و الأغلب أن تكون الحالة المرموز لها مجردة، و أن يكون الرمز المميز لها شيئاً محسوساً يجسد خصائصها و معناها……

و إذن فنقطة البدء الطبيعية في عملية الرمز هي اختلاجة النفس بحالة يراد التعبير عنها، ثم يتجه طريق السير من باطن إلى ظاهر، من حالة وجدانية داخلية إلى شئ محس في دنيا الأشياء الخارجية.. لكن هذا الترتيب الطبيعي -فيما نرى – قد انعكس أحياناً عند ابن عربي في ديوانه “ترجمان الأشواق” لأنه بمثابة من وجد نفسه أمام طائفة من الرموز المجسدة، و أراد أن يلتمس لها من الحياة الشعورية الداخلية ما يصلح أن يكون مرموزات لها. ـ

زكي نجيب محمود – قيم من التراث

I don’t want to compare between sufism & photography, this is not what this post is about. This post is concerned with one specific issue, the process of incorporating symbols in photography.

When I read this paragraph, which focuses on specific poems by Ibn Araby, whereas Zaki naguib Mahmoud says that generally speaking a poet would ponder on a thought / feeling he wants to express, then he will go outwards and finds the proper symbol to express it. But in a book by Ibn Arabi, he described some symbols first, then followed it with what could be the original thought / feeling.

In my opinion, there a lot of similarities between these 2 scenarios and photography, which is evident as both are forms of expressive arts. One in words, and the other in images. In some aspects, a photographer will have a certain message / idea he wants to transmit, and then he will build up the composition of the photo in order to make the observer feel it too. And this is one of the most popular fields of photography, especially in commercial photography whereas it focuses on building a certain image of the product, happiness, freshness, excitement,,,, etc.

Then there is another field of photography whereas the photographer would find a captivating scene, shoot it, and then after looking at it on his laptop or printed image, he will try to describe how this image has impressed him. This reverse way of symbol-then-symbolized can be also found in different types of photography, but for me (and my limited experience in photography), it is most evident in the field of abstract photography.

Through the lens you might find attractive composition, and you don’t know exactly was made it so captivating, you just feel like it talks to you, or moves you in some unknown way, and afterwards (maybe even during editing), you find through its lines, curves, colors that it talked to you specifically, in its own mysterious ways. The fact remains that this feeling was interpreted after you took the picture, and that you had no intention when you left your home to take that specific picture. And this is the thing I love most about photography, spontaneity of expression.

At the end, whether you are building a certain composition, or are just walking around with your camera, just keep your mind and your eyes open, and enjoy!

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