Hidden Beauty

Below is a Susan Sontag quote, which talks of ugly beauty, and I highly agree with her opinion basically that ‘Beauty is within the eye of the beholder’.

Nobody ever discovered ugliness through photographs. But many, through photographs have discovered beauty. Expect for those situations in which the camera is used to document, or to mark social rites, what moves people to take photographs is finding something beautiful. (The name under which Fox Talbot patented the photograph in 1841 was the Calotype: from kalos, beautiful.) Nobody exclaims, “ Isn’t that ugly! I must take a photograph of it.” Even if someone did say that, all it would mean is: “ I find that ugly thing . . . beautiful.

– Susan Sontag, The Heroism of Vision

I’ve always been fascinated by ugly aesthetics, I suppose, because I have become bored with the beautiful. A conventional photograph of a mountain landscape; a beach sunset; or a rainbow, to name a few, requires next to no technical skill because the beauty of the photo is ready-made in the subject, anyone could recognise a pretty landscape and take a snapshot. Having said this, I may still take a ‘conventional photo’, as a means to document an experience, I would not merit myself for doing so by basing a project on it.

I prefer to photograph something ugly, which is not viewed as beautiful in the real world, but can create a beautiful image. A perfect example of this is Keith Arnatt’s work, particularly his series ‘Dog Turds’ (1990), and ‘Pictures from a Rubbish Tip’ (1988-1989)

Dog Turds (1990)

Pictures from a rubbish Tip (1988-1989)

 Click here to read my book review on Keith Arnatt’s ‘I’m a Real Photographer’.

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