Visual and Symbolic Artist Analysis for Idea 2: ‘Joshua Trees at Dusk’ photographed by Michael Frye
The photograph was taken by Michael Frye and features the symbols of the Mojave Desert; Joshua trees. Frye used an array of wonderfully projected colours on the trees to put a different twist on such iconic subjects.
The photo initially looks quite haunting; no doubt a product of the combination of a striking amount of magenta coating an, already awkward-looking, desert tree. Frye’s decision to use Joshua trees is one that shows his strong attention to detail. The fact that these trees are not ‘garden-variety’, intensifies the weirdness, and detracts from any feeling of realism. The bright magenta leaps out from the dark sky behind and reminds us of it’s meaning; imagination, innovation and creativity - enhancing this idea of a dream-like state.
I believe that the imagery seen here is symbolic of an unconscious mind. We can almost imagine the disfigured branches of the tree acting as connections in a brain, lighting up with unlimited power as electrical impulses flow through every leaf and twig, eventually culminating at the end of each big branch to create a thought. In the distance, another four different coloured trees are seen enjoying the unnatural spotlights. Or are they little minds of their own? Each isolated to their own circle of light, but connected by the ever silent darkness between them.
I think the message Frye is trying to communicate to his audience is one of silent revelation. To me, intense darkness, such as that found in the desert, has always seemed scarily muted. Not a quietness of calm and tranquillity but a horrifying blanket of quietness that has been dropped down without warning. This emptiness is filled by the illuminated Joshua trees. Possibly a way of saying that though silence is not a void that must always be filled, sometimes it’s rather nice when it is.
Personally, I think this photograph is an enlightening example of the effects that colour can have. The strange shadows on the branches of the most prominent tree look complex and unreal, emphasising the fantastical edge of the photograph. This is of particular interest to me because my own photographs will be focusing on the unpredictability of light and shadow in a night time environment. This piece has been inspirational to my own photographs as I intend to use the projection of light onto branches to create unnatural-looking forms, as I think this outlines the theme of nightmares and hidden realities very well. However, I do think I will commence my photoshoot when the sky is at it’s darkest, as I think the ‘silently fearful’ atmosphere would work better with a night sky that was not as blue as in Frye’s photograph. As for the use of colour, I would like to experiment with bold, brazen colours that would stand out against the absence of light and bring the textured branches to life.