Beyond “pretty” pictures

Ashok B. Boghani
3 min readFeb 13, 2020

I belong to a camera club that has a few professional photographers and some who are almost at that level. They create images, mostly in black and white that are meant to evoke emotional response or tell a story. However, to untrained eyes, many of them look disjointed, overexposed or ill composed. They are not “pretty” pictures by a standard definition of the term.

I know by now how to take “pretty” pictures, according to these photographers, and should move on to taking pictures like theirs. Bruce, the person who organizes the club, told me to select a poem or a sonnet and take pictures that evoke my selection. This would be the way for me to slide into their fraternity.

I am not sure what to do next, as I am generally quite ignorant of poems and even less so of sonnets. Unlike music, stories, photographs or paintings, they don’t do anything for me. The only poem I could remember, when Bruce put me on a spot, was, the famous one by Robert Frost: “Woods are lovely dark and deep”. (There is a reason why most Indians know that poem — -something to do with Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime minister of India). Bruce told me to disregard that poem as being too pedantic and not stretching my imagination to the extent he wants me to. After all, I am already taking pictures of dark and deep New England woods.

That has created an interesting challenge: If I am not at all into poetry how will I select one to convert into photography? Even more challenging, if their series of not-very-good photographs do not evoke a poem in my mind, how will I ever create them? In other words, how would I ever know if I have succeeded if I do not know what success is?

So, I have concluded that you cannot create art that you cannot appreciate yourself.

Now, I am attempting to move beyond “pretty pictures” and the way forward I have discovered is creating digital art. Using Photoshop, I am able to create abstracts and other forms of artwork that I think is quite good. I have learned somehow to appreciate this type of artwork, while I cannot the poetic ones. Having passed that first hurdle, I have then figured out how to create it using various techniques.

I am not sure why I am reasonably successful in doing so while failing the poetic taste. I have not received any formal training in modern or abstract art. I am reading a book that provides me some guidance on how to appreciate modern art, titled “Varieties of Visual Experience,” by Edmund Burke Feldman. It helps but that’s not it.

Perhaps our right brain has some preordained preferences on what we consider art and what we don’t. These “nature,” plus some “nurture” elements in the brain define whether we are able to move beyond pretty pictures and melodious music, and able to appreciate a work by Picasso or Arnold Schoenberg (a modern composer). They may also dictate what we will not be able to appreciate, even though we may say so to display our refined taste.

We all have urge to create something. Others can indicate various outlets, and guide us…but in the end, it is up to us how we satisfy it. This is especially true if one is pursuing art for its own sake and not as a commercial venture.

That is the way I plan to proceed.



Ashok B. Boghani

I am a retired management consultant who enjoys reading and writing on a variety of subjects. I am fascinated by people, places and physics.