Different Views

copyright Gregory Smith

I took this photograph a few years ago in Bruges, Belgium, where my wife and I stayed a few days before embarking on a bicycle tour to Amsterdam. Bruges is a wonderfully photogenic city, an open air museum and UNESCO site of  medieval architecture remaining largely intact through the centuries, even surviving two world wars.  Walking the streets and boating along Bruges’ famous canals, I was amazed by the incredible amount of brickwork, especially considering it was all done by hand (I grew up in California, where brick buildings are rare because of the earthquake risk).  It had a highly orthogonal look and feel, from the stepped roofs to the straight horizontal and vertical lines of the thousands, no millions, of bricks.  I was captivated, then, on encountering Song Dong’s colorful open air art installation Wu Wei Er Wei (Doing Nothing Doing) at the foot of the Sinte Salvator Cathedral.  Here was a collection of windows (repurposed from houses razed for new residential towers in China) rendered at odd angles, assembled into irregular mounds and peaks that reminded me of the mountainous landscapes of early video games.  Though composed of straight lines, the complex angulations  gave it an organic feel compared to the rigidity of the cathedral behind it. The vibrant coloration of the frames further contrasted with the relative monotony of the brickwork background.  After some uninspiring wider shots I found this closer detail that optimized the abstract compositional lines that so attracted me.  I processed the image in Lightroom and Photoshop, adding contrast, vibrance, and sharpness to emphasize the lines and shapes which power the composition.

 The artwork’s original title is based on the Taoist concept of doing by not doing, going with the flow, so to speak. Think of the power of negative space in a photograph, or a surgeon’s decision NOT to operate. I titled this image “Different Views” for a more contemporary reason. Like the window panes, we come in different sizes, shapes, and colors, and our view of the world varies depending on the angle of our perspective. Despite our different views, we can build something amazing together, if we wish to.

Greg Smith