#1135. Photographic Purpose

By Bob Kruger | How-To

Aug 30

I’ve been taking pictures for a long time. Only recently have I taken pictures with a purpose. For many years I have taken pictures serendipitously, what Pascal calls “grabbing” (DS # 1134). That approach was my staple for many years, but the more I shoot the more I veer from grabbing.

I’m getting too old to wait for fate. Gotta get up early, or stay up late, to chase the perfect light that may or may not oblige. And then I may get the perfect shot of a sunrise (or sunset) almost as good as the thousands I have seen on the walls of galleries everywhere. To what end? I may get lucky? Perhaps. I’d rather chase the perfect cappuccino technique in my kitchen, devour the perfect croissant made fresh by my wife, and read the life and leisure section of the paper. I’m getting too old for serendipity.

Broad Creek Sunset

I began my purposeful exploration of photography several years ago, soon after my wife began raising flowers with a purpose. That purpose? Harnessing entropy. Make no mistake, her plants engage in entropic wandering constantly. Orchids are like that. Like little kids, they sometimes make bad decisions. She molds them, ever so subtly, into better versions of themselves. She has a vision for them that is a combination of altruism and artistry. They shine because of her vision and thrive under her care. The results are both natural and artistic. She is my muse.

Here’s looking at you, kid

My camera has become a shovel with which I mine the raw materials from which I craft a “reality” hidden from my camera’s sensor. I am less concerned with capturing an accurate rendition of what I see, and more concerned with how I can use those raw materials to pursue a vision that begins as a fiction in my imagination. That has become the purpose of my photography. But it’s easy to go too far. I stive for a balance between purpose and artifice.


That is not to say I can’t get a bit carried away at times. For this I apologize. I offer an example of a tortured print I produced using three photographs taken of four eggs, generously donated by a neighbor, four egg yolks, generously provided by my wife during a baking frenzy, and a photo of a Chihuly glass sculpture that I took while visiting my daughter in Seattle. I find the result particularly pleasing even if the photographic process was a bit messy. A copy hangs on my living room wall.

Octopus quartet

In my previous life, I was engaged in medical-image husbandry, mating disparate visualization techniques into a what I hoped would be a more useful diagnostic tool, photoacoustic ultrasound to be exact. In that endeavor I failed. In retirement, however, I have not abandoned the pursuit of the perfect visualization. I share my attempts with anyone who will take some time to look. We all have something to share.

Dorian Gray

Before I became a medical-imaging scientist, I studied physics. (However, I am no DeGrasse Tyson, nor do I pretend to be.) Not surprisingly, my favorite topic during my training was optics. The bending of light rays through glass made complete sense. Focusing, f/stop, exposure, noise, grey scale, image compression were no problem. Does familiarity with these concepts help me? Of course they do, but only to the extent that my photos are in focus, adequately exposed and free from objectionable noise. But most are objectionable in more annoying ways. My physics professors did not teach me how to transform my photos into adequate, let alone perfect, visualizations. ‘Twas not their job. ‘Twas mine.

Party Time

Suffering from one recent brain cramp, I undertook creating a series of images from a simple concept. (All of my concepts are simple.) I took photos of store-bought bell peppers and layered them with other photos I took of my wife’s flowers to see what emerged. What emerged was something I titled The Pepperazzi Collection, which revealed a variety of unexpected, three-dimensional shapes and textures. Sometimes, my purpose leads to serendipity.

Rip Torn

Fascinated by the way in which two-dimensional pictures can convey three-dimensional forms, I exploited Trompe l’oeil techniques that trick the eye into “seeing” 3-D forms in planar structures. I took a photo of a simple pattern that I assembled from different-colored, construction paper, laid out on a planar surface. I then desaturated the resultant image, which produced shading. When combined with the projection angle from which I took an image, the result displayed strong 3-D cues. Accentuating the texture of the construction paper gave an impression of rock-like solidity. Addition of a vase, a few cherries or some knickknacks completed the 3-D illusion.

Chiseled in Granite
Life is just a bowl of cherries
First Kiss

So, there you have a quick trip through a few of my photographic fantasies. I have indulged my desire to create something a little different, sometimes unexpected. My recent work takes place in my attic “studio”. My camera rests squarely on a tripod. I choose my lighting to meet my needs as best I can. I try to create a simple world that I can control rather than succumb to the vagaries of the real world. It is too complicated. I leave that more difficult task to those of far greater talent, dedication, and endurance than myself. But I do enjoy what I do. I think that is the bottom line.


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  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    I’m afraid that the tripod I once regarded as a weight that slowed me down, as I marched through life taking photographs, has now had a renaissance, enabling me to take a whole different range of photos. The uber driver (me) delivers the tripod to the chosen locations, and sits there waiting, as the photos are taken.

    Sigh – old age has taken over – finally.

    So I can relate to your selection, Bob – more creative than anything I’ve done, I admit. But creative nevertheless.

    I think I have to persuade my wife to make fresh croissants. The coffee here is fine, but nothing I’ve tried eating at breakfast has EVER produced a photo for me, like you “Broad Creek Sunset”. Is “sunset” the clue? – you ate croissants all day?

    The walls of your home must be fascinating. This is a marvellous selection of photos. Thanks for sharing them with us>

  • philberphoto says:

    Bob, what a mind-blowing, jaw-dropping collection of cracking images! I cannot see myself even beginning to visualize as you do, nor the ability to execute as you so ably do. But the result speaks volumes!
    I have multiple favorites. Actually almost each image is a fave. The flowers, for obvious reasons. Then Dorian Gray, for the creativity and humour. But the ones I’d hang on my wall -don’t I wish!- are the table-corner twins. One simple, minimalistic, soooo elegant, and the other deep into surrealism.
    May we please, please pretty please, get a second helping?

    • Bob Kruger says:

      Working on it. Thanks for your kind words.

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      I couldn’t decide which was my favourite. I did try – but it was too hard – so I gave up! I like your solution – MULTIPLE favourites!

  • Dallas says:

    Bob, what can I say but your images are sooo good, your creativity is something I would love. Take care. The first kiss is spectacular. Dallas

  • Pascal Ravach says:

    Drop dead gorgeous.
    ’nuff said 🙂
    Excelpt… will keep as a far far goal, an inspiration. Thanks!

  • Pascal Ravach says:

    Oh, by the way, I really love the rendering of “Party Time”… I know lighting is fundamental, but still would like to know which lens and camera you used for that photo?

  • Pascal Ollier says:

    Bob, thank you so much for sharing this spectacular set of pictures! Awesome!
    I cannot wait for an encore.
    Thanks again.
    Pascal O.

  • Sean says:

    Hi Bob,
    Super! The images you have crafted, as here, are uniquely yours, imaginatively disciplined, creative and artistic. Well done. I’m impressed.

  • Nancee Rostad says:

    Wonderful post, Bob! Your stunning images and creative ideas are a delight to behold. I too cannot choose a favorite image, although I’m drawn to the flowers and the peppers and…….
    Not waiting for fate or serendipity is certainly working for you. Kudos!

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