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  • Writer's pictureEllen Fisch

The Art of Architectural Photography: Homage to Leonard Cohen

The very beautiful lyrics by the genius poet Leonard Cohen in his song "Suzanne" had a profound effect on my visualizations of subjects. In essence, I believe that Cohen was encouraging his listeners to look for beauty and/or relevance in all things. It is inconsequential where one finds beauty, in what surroundings, medium or state; the beauty, in and of itself, exists. At least that is what the song conveyed to me. And this I have been doing all of my life: looking for the beauty and the relevance. In any situation or visual I encounter there is relevance or beauty and often both.

Since my last year's trip to India, many people have asked me about conditions there. Frankly, I saw beauty, history, art and a pervasive truth wherever I went in India. "Oh," they say, "what about the poverty or the pollution?" Well, everywhere you may find poverty and pollution if that is what you are looking for or predisposed towards. I was on a quest for architecture and what I found was so much more. The negatives will always exist. It is the positive outlook that yields and yields and yields huge dividends in terms of photography and maybe life. It should be clarified here that there are photographers whose focus IS the negative aspect of life, such as war, famine, squalor. To these photojournalists there is fascination in those subjects. In my lexicon, fascination equates beauty. Truth is beauty and relevance. The unbeauty is searching for one thing, such as architecture and turning the lens on a rotting pile of garbage next to an old ruin. I specifically traveled to India to photograph the marvelous ruin and not a mound of discard that has no relevance for me. And yes, I do remove the unwanted from my images in a variety of ways. Ultimately, it's all about perception. As Leonard Cohen poeticized, if you look, you will find flowers in the detritus. It's all about seeing.

Temple: Khajuraho, India

In Khajuraho, a special place of temples and monuments, I asked to be taken to a temple that was not a tourist attraction, for there are many, many well-known sights in this small Indian city. I was taken to an out of the way place in a village within Khajuraho to admire all that remains of a once practicing temple. It is cordoned off by a wrought iron fence with No Trespassing signs posted everywhere, of course in Hindi. Animals, weeds and people have overrun the small property despite the barriers. However, very carefully, stepping through the rubble to get as close as I could get to this magnificent structure, I angled my camera lens through the fence. The stunningly grand architecture was the focus; the monkeys were a bonus.

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