‘The artist is the creator of beautiful things. All art is at once, surface and symbol’.
It was Oscar Wilde who captured the concept of aestheticism so elegantly in his most famous work, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Centring upon the idea that art exists for sheer beauty alone, aestheticism became a powerful artistic and intellectual movement in 19th century Europe. It focused on the concept of ‘art for art’s sake’, and thus rejected social-political themes for literature, music, and the arts.
Aestheticism certainly still retains validity in contemporary society, and it becomes all the more interesting when we examine its relationship with photography. Although there are surprisingly few critical essays analysing the role of aesthetics in this particular field, it seems evident that aesthetics can in fact be understood by everybody; anyone can determine if something is beautiful, and what is not. However, it’s much more difficult to explain why certain elements are pleasing, and this is where compositional techniques come in.
Compositional techniques are integral to the overall structure of the image. They are made up of various practices that enhance and solidify the potency of the work, and unsurprisingly, some photographers are more skilled at these techniques than others. A person who possesses these abilities in abundance is Alexander Ward, a hugely talented photographer based in Stockport. Imaginative and bold in his work, Alexander has the aptitude to effortlessly capture leading lines, whilst toying with the binaries between artist and subject:
‘I like to get to know a person, or a subject, before I can start shooting them. I like to see what makes them tick, and how that can translate through the camera.
It’s important that people can trust me and feel relaxed enough to let their personality shine through. Through photographing people, and creating portraits, I’m able to learn about others. I want to see the real version, rather than how they wish to be perceived’.
While remaining behind the camera, Alexander’s approach to both photography and people is evident in his images; his calm demeanour and patient nature really do bring out the best in his subjects, and results in consistent portraits that retain sincerity.
Coupled with an excellent judgement of light and shadow, there’s a quality to his work that is not only technically brilliant, but delivers that sought-after aesthetic quality that encourages the viewer to engage with the image on an emotional level.
For our shoot, we decided to visit Media City UK at Salford Quays. Abundant in geometric shapes, we wanted to explore the linear background of the Quays, and deliver something stylish, sleek, and raw in aesthetic quality. Leading lines would here place an emphasis on the subject (which would happen to be me) and create a beautiful framework for the scene.
After seeing the results of our shoot for myself, it’s safe to say that Alexander’s photography does away with polished veneers in favour of something altogether more secular, and ultimately human. Shooting with his favourite Canon 5D Mark II with 50mm lens, his images are sharp, crisp, and heavy in existential weight. Whether his portraits are tailored for models or fashion brands, each portfolio possesses depth and honesty that creates an intimate dynamic. The spectator is given access to the subject’s notion of the external world, of his/her self, and their position within it.
Both myself and Alexander would love to hear your own thoughts about the images we’ve worked on- leave a comment below and tell us what you think.
To find out more about Alexander’s photography, visit https://www.alexanderward.com/
You can also find him on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ruggedwisdom/