Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring Deconstructed

Spring Deconstructed (version 2), 2011

I had lunch the other day with a friend at one of those Mongolian beef places where you pick out your food on a cold buffet line and then they cook it on a big open griddle while you wait. This is not one of my favorite cuisines. But as Mongolian beef places go, this place was clean and the food was fresh and tasty.

I didn’t realize as I was picking out my food that my selections were not very colorful. My wife is very big on how food is presented. A dinner plate prepare by her is not only tasty but visually appealing. But left to my own devices everything on the plate would be the same color.

To be honest, I didn’t even think about what the finished dish would look like until my friend’s plate was delivered back from the griddle looking like something from the Cordon Bleu. My plate, on the other hand, looked like a bunch of mushy green vegetables with a few strips of mystery meat (chicken). I had to make an unplanned swing by the salad bar and grab a few cocktail tomatoes to make it look edible.

A few days ago, I was taking pictures in the garden. I look forward to the colors of spring, the soft blue skies, the soft rose color of spring camellias and the pale green foliage of the first new leaves of the season. The calendar may say that we’re into spring. And early spring flowers may be showing. But the weather this week is more like fall than spring. Still, if I wanted to get photographs that said “spring” I was going to have to work with what nature gave me, no matter how chilly.

I took all the usual pictures of flowers: daffodils, camellias, blue bells and so on. Nature is gorgeous this time of year. If you’re the least bit metaphorical as a gardener you see this as the season of birth and hope. But once you’ve seen a few pictures of spring flowers you’ve probably seen all you need to see.

The idea with Spring Deconstructed was to get away from the literal and highlight some of the spring colors, to pull out the essence of the season. I didn’t want it to be as Frankenthaler-ish as this. But I also didn’t want it to be purely representation.

The first version, seen below, was the truest. As you can probably guess, this is a purposely unfocused image of forsythia, as lovely of an everyday plant as you could want. What says “spring” like forsythia, after all?

Spring Deconstructed (version 1), 2011

I shot from a low angle in order to purposely use the glare of the sun to lighten the image and bend the color a little. I liked the result, too. Who can object to yellow and green? But upon reflection, I realized that like my plate at the Mongolian beef place, the yellow and green of this photograph didn’t fully represent the range of colors visible in the yard at the moment. It didn’t, for example, include any of the reds from the camellias. So just as I had thrown a few cocktail tomatoes on my plate at the restaurant, I blended a photograph of red camellias into the forsythia picture. The result is Spring Deconstructed (version 2), seen at the top of this post.

Having looked at both of them for a little while now, I’ve concluded that I like the original (version 1) better. It’s sunnier and lighter in the weight of its colors, and while it might not include any reds, it seems to do a better job of saying “spring.” Version 2, by comparison, looks to me to be more about, say, Christmas.

What do you think?


  1. Agreed. Version 2 looks like fall to me. Cocktail tomatoes and all...

  2. Oh, I like them very much! Looks to me the way I imagine Monet must have seen the surrounding landscape--dots of color all representing flowers and trees in the distance. I don't know--I like the top one, too. It doesn't look fall to me. It's like I tell Joe when he's eating: the more color on your plate, the more different combinations of vitamins you're taking in.

  3. Since we haven't seen spring yet in NYC I have to go with version 2. Version 1 is early spring and in that sense true to that moment. Version 2 holds the promise flowers, early blooms, and the riot of color to come.

  4. One thing, among many, that my father taught me about cooking was that we eat with our eyes first so presentation is always important.
    I agree that version 2 looks more like Christmas but I like them both.
    Spring was here for a few days but winter is on the way back. Snow, sleet and freezing rain in the forecast for the weekend and first part of next week. I sure am tired of snow and ice!

  5. Nice effect Chris. I thought at first I liked Version 2 better, but with more comparison, I too prefer Version 1.

  6. the green and yellow says spring, for sure. the more multicolored one could be anything really, candy even!
    And I agree that food color and presentation is so important! Somewhere long ago, some experiment was done serving people beef under green lights, and some even got sick! So strong are out visual perceptions...