Lone Bench is a scene from Point Lobos near Carmel, CA. It is very symbolism/metaphor rich with its lone bench, deep forest, diverging paths, hollow trunk, and subdued lighting. As edited, it could be an illustration of Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken; “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both.” Easy to imagine one sitting on its lone bench and having such thoughts. Example: You the viewer are standing on one path, looking at two paths diverging ahead. The one you select becomes one with the one you’re on, and the alternative gets left in the unknown of the one life we have to live.
“Life is choice” — Kurt Lightfoot
He merely said, "I just had to have it"
The first public display of Lone Bench was at Gallery 21 in Spanish Village, Balboa Park, San Diego. It was the center image in a triptych. The collector who purchased Lone Bench was asked by the gallery attendee about what motivated him to buy it. He merely said, "I just had to have it." I wish I knew more. What are the elements in the image that compelled him to purchase it? I'll never know for sure, but I have my guess.
"When you come to a fork in the road, take it" - Yogi Berra
Lone Bench is full of visual literacy clichés that we know and love; a bench, a hollowed-out log, diverging paths, mystically lit forest. We know these visual clues and the feelings they are associated with. They speak to us in a clear common language, and we like them.
Lone Bench is an image I use in the workshop "Shoot For Story ~ Edit For Perception". It is used to inspire the workshop participants to share their interpretation of the image, what feelings it creates, and how the visual elements work together to create a narrative. It is used to feed a dialog about visual literacy.
Workshop attendees describe the narratives they see in the image. Viewers tell narratives based on which path they entered on, how long they sat on the bench, how the scene feels (usually warm, comforting, nostalgic, but sometimes ominous), and by which path they exit the scene and why that path over other choices. We're really good at building personal narratives when we're given meaningful visual clues.
Below is the slide from the workshop that talks about the story elements.
Visual literacy clichés may not be such a bad thing. I still enjoy gazing at Lone Bench.
In the workshop, Lone Bench is also used to illustrate how editing can enhance how the visual metaphors flow together. Here's a summary of the most radical edits: flipped left-to-right, de-cluttered, warmed, re-lit to influence eye flow and attention.
Below is a quick slide show summarizing the major edits.
But editing has it limits. If the original scene didn't contain the visual metaphors to begin with then editing could not add them. And the same can be said for the library of visual metaphors we carry in our minds. Without minds with a rich personal history that creates and stores visual meaning we can not have visual arts. So, that collector who said "I just had to have it" has had a personal rich visual history that is warmly recalled by Lone Bench and other metaphors.
Interpretive Editing for "Narratives With Isolation"
For a recent show at Gallery 21, Lone Bench was edited in the style of the body-of-work Narratives With Isolation. The brown & black pallet isolates the viewer from our Kodachrome visual world. The image is further simplified to create a style somewhat like an illustration. The visual goal is encourage the viewer's sense of imagination and mystery.