The Hedge

All the pictures in this collection have twenty-one elements: each element being a portrait-shaped rectangle.

I've set them within a landscape format in a 3 x 7 matrix, separated from each other by narrow white lines and framed with a slightly wider band of white.

The collection is subtitled: "Variations on a Theme of 21."

You'll notice that the technique varies a lot, some of the pictures being composed from a single photographic image which I've deconstructed and then put back together; while others are derived from two or more images taken within a few seconds of each other.

In all cases I've originated the images myself. I don't really approve of "appropriation" although I acknowledge that it may sometimes turn photography into art.

The Return of Spontaneity

Writing in The Guardian (Saturday 13 August 2005), collector William A. Ewing noted: "(Gone are) Cartier-Bresson's "decisive moments". Today's photographers design and build up their images, and what they don't like they alter or edit away. We now have vibrant, clever, polished images which hold their own against the most spectacular commercial photography, as well as the slick products of contemporary art. But spontaneity, surely one of the great natural attributes of the medium (cameras really can capture things the eye cannot see), is in short supply. For better or worse, the photographer as hunter has given way to the sedentary farmer."

That is a very insightful comment and it holds true nearly a decade later. Artists have jettisoned some of the most characteristic and potent aspects of photography in a search for objectivity and presence.

Can we bring back decisive moments and spontaneity, without reverting to outdated modes of artistic statement? Can we start hunting again? Can we hunt with intentionality?

My answer is yes, but only within a medium of one's own devising. As I'm not given to grand theatrical gestures, I have no wish to stage elaborate happenings, performances, or installations. My aim is to undramatise reality, not the opposite.

I create art for the home, office or gallery environment and for this collection my invented medium (or my "automatism," to use Stanley Cavell's word, or "technical support," to quote Rosalind E. Krauss) is the 21-element format.

If you find anything to admire in these pictures, that will a reward in itself. If you want to purchase, publish, write about, or exhibit any of them on a blog, website or gallery wall, please >get in touch. Purchase prices are >here.

Please note that all the versions shown on this website are greatly scaled down from their original size and resolution.

[On this page, above: "The Hedge." This small scale work is available only in Low Cost Open Edition direct fromThe Hub].


John Lewell is an author, photographer and artist who bases his work on his own street photographs which he takes chiefly in the Far East.

He is also the author of the biographical encyclopedia "Modern Japanese Novelists" (published by Kodansha).

He has written several books on computer graphics and photographic software (published by McGraw-Hill, John Wiley, Cengage, etc.)

He has an MA in Fine Art from the University of Cambridge (Peterhouse) and studied film at what is now the University for the Creative Arts.

Resident in the United States for several years, he divides his time between England and the Far East.

He is married to Thai cookery writer Oi Cheepchaiissara.