I’m not sure that ‘The World of Fantasy’ is a good title for this observation. But what else do you call it? Maybe the word ‘Art’ is enough. What we are about to discuss is not portraiture in the strict sense and certainly not landscape art. It is the art of something that does not exist and may never have existed. And yet it seems real. It is, indeed, a fantasy.
I am happy to say that I have found a Canadian photographer, a woman, who has produced some interesting fantasies and, as often as not, in a very masculine vein. She is Renee Robyn. I am not enthusiastic about all of her work but some of it is brilliant.
For instance, this image. Probably mercenaries in some hot dusty war, this is a documentary photograph of something that never happened. But it has a quality of art about it. There is a surreal atmosphere that projects a feeling of strength, masculinity and action. Firstly, the composition is excellent. The figures are not centered, the principal protagonist has the top of his head cropped, the people are off balance enough to give a sense of suspense and action. The dust over the whole image denotes activity and turmoil. Something is going on. We are not told what but we are told everything about the activity of war. I love it.
Realism here starts with the solder\’s back to us. Although the composition has been carefully controlled, it looks haphazard, uncontrived, real. Again, the dust and the secondary figures partially obscured to give an impression of frenetic activity. But it gets better.
When Renee looks back in time, creates historical tableau, interesting things happen. I particularly like this image just below. There is a battle raging. Where is it, when is it? Maybe on the Danube frontier in Roman times.
The snow is falling. It is cold. A soldier sees something – approaching enemy, reinforcements, we are not told. But he calls out to his comrades. You can hear it! The actors in this piece have projected the urgency of the moment. And Renee captured it.
I love painted portraits of the high renaissance. Those painters created the ability to capture mood, strength, even good and evil, in their brush strokes. It is that quality that I want for photography. Consider, therefore, these two portraits.
Again, soldiers from armies that never existed. But the images are right out of Caravaggio for realism and mood. This is the technique that makes the photographic art form stand out. The camera, the computer, the printer, they fade into one tool: they are the paint brush. It is through them that the artist can put an inspiration on canvas.
I think that Renee has managed to create her vision and has not let the equipment and computer programs in the middle obscure her inspiration. I admire that greatly. I look at what she has done and then I look at my own poor work and I weep.
One last word: I don’t want to leave the impression that Renee cannot be tender. I have looked at only one corner of her world. But let me leave you with one final image that I hope will draw you into her other images. Totally different in theme and impact and yet equally compelling. Renee is multi talented. A true inspiration.