I remember watching jazz pianist Bobby “The Wild Man” Enriquez on tv with my dad when I was a kid. I never really understood the melodic mayhem coming off those maniacal fingers of his. But pops seemed fascinated. Me? Impatient to say the least being the kid that I was but the very short memory of that night did stay for reasons unknown.

Fast forward to present day and here I am looking at a series of photographs that I’ve taken over the past few months. I noticed certain preferences that vacillated between classical and seemingly “off-key” compositions across or within genres.

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Composition that I felt rather than saw. Whoever thinks about a red plastic bag making a blurry cameo as a value-adding aesthetic? Not me. And yet I was quite happy when it did.

 

Rembrandt’s chiaroscuro, Beethhoven’s fifth, Rodin’s Thinking Man, The Porsche 911, hell, The Leica M, all have rhythmic logic that lends itself to easy appreciation. In contrast, off-key composition (I loosely refer to it as off-key but not to say it isn’t rhythmic. It is. But not easily categorized or discerned) that one sees from photographers like Daido Moriyama isn’t as intellectually accessible. Or how about that bicycle wheel that is stuck on a stool, passing off as sculpture by Duchamp? Well, who am I to say that it isn’t? His work is in MOMA after all.

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Easily understood, this one. A friend said it had a Last Supper feel to it. No need to explain why this appeals. Contrast it to the image above. Not as neat but I’d hazard to say that it has a bit more unexplainable personal tug.

 

I say “intellectually”. And I think this is where this particular type of composition branches off into something else entirely. From my very limited understanding (not necessarily appreciation), this type of composition can only come from something primal. I grasp at words to explain it but I think once you get into this kind of vibe, it’s hard to shake off. It stays with you. It haunts me, to be honest. Because it’s not something that you can predict to happen. All you can really do is coax your brain to be on the lookout for something that looks and feel similar. Or attempt to rewire your brain from I’ll know it when I see it to I’ll feel it when I see it.

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I spent 5 days photographing Mindoro in 2012. It was easily a 20gb affair. Lots of photographs to choose from, photographs that made sense, and yet this one really made an impression. Weird, yes? Clicking on a filter preset in Lightroom added a bit more to the mood. Don’t ask me why I like it. I just do. And I’m not saying that in an off hand way, declaring that it’s artistic. I don’t know what it is. I just like it.

 

Stand in a corner of some street and it can go this way or that. My exposure to classical composition takes over and I see myself trying to make geometric sense of a scene before “something” happens. But then once in awhile, the wild man takes over and presses the shutter. You capture something inexplicable. These are the types of images that one can carelessly dismiss as candidates for deletion. Beauty so precarious; on the brink of extinction at a touch of a button.

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“You’re going to use that for an article, aren’t you?”, asked Jerry as he saw me take this photograph with my then Leica M9-P. I just smiled not realizing its prophetic value 2 years later as a sample image for this article. Yes, this one could’ve easily been deleted. Glad that I didn’t!

 

That night when I saw the wild man confuse the hell out of those piano keys, it could have easily just been deleted from memory. I didn’t understand it. I’m not sure I was even attracted to it. I felt no reason for it to occupy a minuscule real estate in my mind. But it did. And it was only years later that I began to understand. Well, I don’t really understand it. It’s more like acknowledging that there are other ways to look at things. Think Newton taking a peek at Quantum Physics. How about Bach listening to the mad genius of Bobby Enriquez? Or heck, an erstwhile COBOL programmer like myself looking for the first time at a compressed code of C (which made me realize that being in IT was going to be a short-lived affair).

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All I knew ahead of time was that I wanted to use the strings as the major element in this photograph. Everything else came into place by accident. I placed the camera near the balloon man’s hand and fired away.

 

What is captivating about these types of composition is that it introduces the mind to possibilities; to a certain aesthetic openness. A cropped head suddenly becomes interesting and not necessarily a misfire in framing. Of course, this kind of aesthetic carries with it a certain sense of responsibility. Most cropped heads are really just products of amateurish miscalculation. And this is where it gets really tricky because one’s chopped head can easily be another man’s magnum opus.

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Having a preference for 16:9, I decided to crop the head. I’m thinking the boy statue’s head below would balance it off. Catching the hand in the frame was intentional. Whether it appeals or not is totally up to the viewer.

 

I offer no enlightenment here. And I’m not saying that this type of composition is superior to Bresson’s. All I can propose is for people to give pause before passing judgement… or pressing that delete button. Give that strange image a chance. You just never know when the wild man will come out and make its genius known to you.