“We are not interested in the unusual, but in the usual seen unusually.”
– Beaumont Newhall
I have noticed a difference over time between many paintings and photography. Many successful paintings have been created of subjects that are pretty boring. They are scenes that a good photographer would never even bother with. The composition can be mundane, nothing about the objects unusual and the light flat and uninteresting. Such a scene captured as a photograph would be of little interest to anyone. While it may be true that a painting with great composition, content and lighting may be better than the others, it doesn’t seem to be an absolute requirement as it is in photography.
Why is this?
I have a couple of theories. First, many people confer an almost mystical ability on a painter who can use a brush and paints and create anything that looks like something else. It seems to be a talent beyond so many (of course, it’s not!). But there is that self-deprecating belief in many people. So they are amazed when a painting looks like almost anything at all. Secondly, I think sometimes it is that the technique may be interesting. There are so many more ways in which a painting can be uniquely painted than a photograph printed. The photograph has to rely more on it’s content since the technique with which the print is created is much more limited than the myriad ways in which a painting can be painted.
Interestingly enough, I have found that when I paint from a photograph, I get a more interesting painting if I work from a “poor” photograph, one with not that much of interest going on. If it is a great photograph, my tendency is to try to reproduce it too literally, so I end up with something that looks like a not-very-good photograph. I used to manipulate some of my photos to make them worse with less information so when using them as a reference for a painting I was not tempted to settle for what was in the photo but to go beyond that in the painting.