Why I Love the Pre-Raphaelites

rapeseed-23I was writing a wee introduction to the Pre-Raphaelites for my Patreon recently and looking deeper into that art movement made me realize why I love them so much. I think it's easy to look at a Pre-Raphaelite painting and then look at my pictures, and although they're worlds apart, see how that art movement inspires me. Pre-Raphaelite paintings are romantic, they often depict classic tales and legends, or are inspired by lines of poetry. Their muses had long flowing hair and were nymphs and naiads and ladies in sweeping gowns holding wildflowers. But the Pre-Raphaelites were also focused on realism--trying to re-create scenes of nature as accurately they could and rejecting overly stylized and unrealistic portraits. It is that dichotomy of loving realistic portrayals and love of romantic legends that I find so appealing--it's a line I try to walk as well. rapeseed-5 rapeseed-49
My current style doesn't really have a set term to it. I don't dress very "vintage" because I'm not imitating a certain era or eras, but rather wearing a hodgepodge of pieces. Dresses with 1800s inspiration but casually belted and worn with loose hair. Or classic shirt dresses matched with basket purses and giant bows. One term I've used occasionally for my style is "romanticism meets realism." Because on one hand I love the feel of more dramatic dresses, almost costumes, and elaborate hair styles and headdresses...but I live in the real world and would prefer not to be stared at in public or deal with the physical discomfort of period undergarments or overly complicated gowns. So I compromise my more theatrical ambitions with the practicality of my life. I still wear dresses, but they're clothes I can and do walk my dog in.rapeseed-35-side
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The Pre-Raphaelites had a similar tension. One of their main principles was to study nature so as to portray it realistically in their art. Some of their early paintings of religious subjects were considered "shocking and repulsive" for showing Jesus in a humble, realistic manner. Instead of painting Jesus and Mary as a hyper-stylized Madonna and child in pristine gowns, they painted Jesus in a humble carpenter's workshop surrounded by wood chips with Joseph laboring in the background. They rejected art movements that were overly posed and stylized or didn't depict the natural world in a realistic way. William Holman Hunt for example, traveled to Egypt and Palestine to make accurate observations of the landscapes and region for his religious themed work; in comparison many other painters at the time would depict Biblical stories in European scenes. But the Pre-Raphaelites also loved poetry and felt that art was spiritual, so many of their paintings depicted scenes of medieval legends. This creates an interesting balance in their work because while they sought to accurately capture scenes of nature and paint people who looked like real people, many times the subjects of their paintings were historic or based on poetry and legends. The Pre-Raphaelite movement was founded in 1848, but many paintings feature medieval clothing. Romantic ideals meets realism.rapeseed-29 rapeseed-44-sideMy photography mimics that balance as well, in my own humble way. I try to photograph nature; this is a real field of flowers that are really this color. None of my pictures are photoshopped or layered; the sky looked this way on the day these were shot, I don't overly change colors but try to edit in a way to capture what my eye saw that day. (P.S. This isn't a criticism towards Photoshop or layered photographs--I follow a number of inspiring photographers who edit in that style or create surreal scenes and their work is beautiful and inspiring--I'm merely trying to explain my process/style.) But even without creative editing there is a touch of fantasy in all of my photographs because whether I take the pictures with a tripod or Thomas helps me, there's planning and posing involved--I don't just happen to stumble across this field while wearing a perfectly coordinated dress in good lighting conditions and happen to have a fully charged battery with me! More realistically: I stumble across this setting while walking my dog and make a mental note to return to it later prepared for photographs. For one thing, I simply do not have my camera on me constantly--have you ever carried a DSLR with a prime lens? That thing is heavy! Maybe I'd be more fit if I did carry it constantly but it would be hard to juggle camera, tripod, and dog on every outing...So in the finished work we have: a real scene, a real me, in an outfit I really wear, but there's still a touch of fantasy as I create a perfect moment of coordination and pose. But that's the really enjoyable part of photography for me; the ability to create and capture these serene and perfect moments that are still grounded in the very real beauty of the world around me. Romanticism meets realism.  rapeseed-41 rapeseed-52


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