Lens work: Kim Kirkpatrick

06th March 2021

Soft focus has long been associated with memories and reverie. Kim Kirkpatrick explores the aesthetic possibilities of shallow depth of field to re-imagine abandoned industrial sites in the American landscape.

OCA EYV (2014)

Kirkpatrick states that his early work, which he began in graduate school, looks at the subjects of colour and environment,

…the results of constant searching for unnoticed elements of beauty and hidden, subtle significance in our surroundings. The photographs have carefully controlled focus, minimal depth of field, with the majority of each image soft and out of focus. These are highly subjective photographs and through the use of color, tight focus and composition the viewer is directed to that which is important.

Kirkpatrick, K. (2001). Gallery: early work (Accessed 06.03.21)

The above quote from Kirkpatrick’s website describes his visual content precisely. To breakdown his images further, I have analysed three of his stronger works in depth. This research can be seen below.

On analysing the images I have looked at the content, composition, technique and colour. I personally find the images very appealing and strong. To me they have a wonderful abstract quality, brought about by the balanced lines, shapes and subtle, calming neutral colours which are often broken by a dynamically coloured focus point.

The subject matter pre-dominantly records the haphazard relationship of the natural world with man made structures. Where natural forms over run the geometric shapes, straight lines and solid forms of abandoned construction materials and buildings.

Kirkpatrick has used depth of field to keep the whole or part of the background softly blurred which leaves his focus point in the foreground sharp which draws the viewers eye straight towards it. I have also found that these elements also have the strongest colours, for example, the yellow pulley and the white pipe. The third image’s focus point which is a leaf? may not have the contrasting colour that brings it forward as within the other images composition, but because it is in sharp focus the leaf’s tonal form is strongly separated from its background.

Kirkpatrick divides one image into two distinct sections by placing a weed stem so that it cuts through the picture plane from left to right. Not only has this been used as a cropping method for effect, it separates two distinct elements within the picture frame. The top section, which can also termed as the mid-ground and background is out of focus, which is in contrast to the foreground which is sharp focus. This division brings in an extra dimension to the composition which visually, is intriguing.

I have found Kim Kirkpatrick’s images, although limited in number, very intriguing. His technical use of depth of field is inspiring and it has actually made me see how this aspect of photography can actually be used to create visually abstract images which is an area I am very interesting in developing skills in.


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