it has to happen: the appreciation for an object of art transcends the cultural appropriation that has come before the object is first seen. in this case, a tomb’s artwork for the Famiglia Appiani at Staglieno (in Genova) has become famous through the use of a photograph by French photographer Bernard Pierre Wolff in Joy Division‘s second album Closer. like the point of view expressed in The Vanity of Grief, this particular work, at first glance, has to overcome the Vanity of Grief context, and that of the history for a beloved album. yet, the power of this artwork is that it quickly makes those two contexts vanish: there is so much immersion into this work’s layers, that preconceptions were vanished ever so quickly. apparent on the first visit (in May), and fully obvious on a recent second visit, is the many ways that, despite its testament to a Christian presentation, the work catapults away from this context and works from any point of view. for example, it is simple to ignore the two auras, and consider the four women as the same person in stages of grief: disbelief, acceptance, sorrow, and sufferance— for example. personally, the appreciation of an artwork has to transcend the artist’s (or customer’s) intent, and in this case, beyond the cultural appropriation and/or the modern view of elaborate tombstones. this one, personally, is the magnum opus of such work.
B.P. Wolff’s obituary [ NYTimes ]
Vanity of Grief account on Instagram [ A Touching Display ]
being an autodidact in the age of L’internets is quite interesting. mainly, the outlets are photo-social networks, and the development is quite influenced by what one sees there (to accept or repel), and the urgency to acquire the social currency— such as comments and likes. when I think back on the days of flickr, and Instagram since its inception, there is no doubt that I could not divorce the social from the photographic attempts. however, I like to think that there is a big difference these days to be able to find out what is possible with owning a camera (or two): 1. I photograph what I want, and thinks develops a language and not a style; 2. photo-social sites are just a sharing mechanism, which is to say, more social than photographic**. while previously I would search for a photo to take that would give me currency at the sites, and develop by mimicking others (famous or not), these days I just search for something that connects, and use a camera to record it. one such interest is that of chairs at Parisian parks. I like to go in the afternoon, if possible, and find their arrangement as left by peope, and think “a conversation happened here”— even if, like this one, it looks like someone needed to rest their feet— and try to give them a conversation context via composition. the photograph, indeed, is an artifact, and its judgment is as much divorced from the art as possible.
** this is an attempt to not be overtaken by the grey goo.
link: “grey goo” in PressPlayPause [ link ]
there are so many ways to take a portrait: fill the frame, or face on center, and they can all be the best way to photograph the sitter. yes, photography should not have a formula, and just have a sense of the sitter and a language that each composition provides. Richard Avedon worked with a few approaches to this, in addition to lens distortions. a preferred method, for me and what I appreciate in others, is for the sitter to be off-center. in this way, I must admit, the sitter is the last selection for the photograph, and the scene (to conform to a desired geometry at play) comes first. an equivalence I like to convey is to a song: the instrumental part is composed first, and it must work as an instrumental, and then one adds the lyrics to suit the instrumental version. in movies, this approach was exceedingly good, and done very often, in Ida. (as best as I can discern, the opposite approach would have been most frame compositions in Yasujirō Ozu‘s movies, and Richard Avedon (again) with his white background. in this “off-center + the sitter comes in last” composition, there is a bit of danger: who is the protagonist? the background or the person? what has been done to the portrait by (most likely) cropping parts of the person out?
link: some of my experiments can be viewed at liminaleye‘s selection of the Incidental Interiors series.
by cinematographer Lukasz Zal
(actress Agata Trzebuchowska)
from the movie «Ida»
like many industries, it is difficult to accept changes in fashion photography. yes, fashion is about quarterly/yearly changes to the clothes, though we can see that fashion photography was pretty stale for many years— and that stale view can still be found today. it seems that that Deborah Turbeville was not a fan of the fashion world, still, it may have been this disdain that propelled her to be subversive, in a way, with her photographic work within that industry. « It is the psychological tone and mood that I work for… », she said, and thus it is not only a “lo-fi” approach to otherwise saturated/sharp (and stale) fashion work that was subversive, but also what the fashion photograph should convey: as if she wanted to integrate the scene, and not just differentiate the clothes. in my view, an integrative view of composition and presentation can produce a stronger work, rather than concentrating on equipment and photographic rules/clichés (such as “rules of thirds”, sharpness, small or large DoF gimmickry, and the fads in post-processing). Deborah Turbeville took an assault on fashion photography norms from many different angles which reverberate through today.
info: her fashion photography has been compiled onto the book The Fashion Photographs. for a look at integration versus elimination (differentiation), the article from Malcom Gladwell, for The New Yorker, on the advertising targeting via psychological integration vs differentiation classification can be found at [ summary ]
link: 14 photographs at Last Shot: DT, and an interview with DT on her last book.
by Deborah Turbeville
one of my favorite mantras for photography comes from Albert Einstein: « make it simple, but no simpler ». it rings true, yet, in something as objective as mathematics, or even algorithm design, it is quite the challenge: there are no instructions. in the subjective field of photography, the liberty of seeking simplicity can lead to, not only good photographs, but also a discovery of how we see. a friend posted a quote from Sarah Moon:
« I spend my time eliminating things with the hope that there will be something left that will surprise me, that will make me forget I am in a studio, in front of a model I have booked, on a set on which I have spent hours fussing. »
and that is a characteristic to be loved about Sarah Moon, which sits atop the very alluring Polaroid work that she has done. approaching the snap of a photograph with her idea of simplicity is not very simple, and can lead to many photographs not being taken. however, the learning is gained, and subsequently to less clutter to process.
by Sarah Moon
lucky to visit Lisbon for the first time, and it was fantastic in many ways. photographically, the supernice thing is to have a reset: each city makes a different connection, and obviously impresses on how to photograph it. the hills, the tiles, the shades… and on this visit, it was mainly the search for texture and shadowplay that piqued my interest. cities have become a tricky balance for me: in some ways, I like to abstract them, while retaining some hints that would keep them from being anonymous. (this photo also marks the link to my Instagram account, where this blog becomes the place where I post photos such as these.)
fundamentally, photography is about freedom— there should not be any rules, as it is already difficult to work with the few decision-points in the journey. the recent book from Michael Kenna reminds me of such a decision-point: is one’s style (if we have one) to be ever dominant, and all cameras are just a tool? or, is the transition from one camera to another a chance to exploit the new medium as how one’s style (if we have one!) is affected? André Kertész notoriously would learn how a camera worked, and exploit it— most notoriously with The Polaroids series— and I am on this camp. the differences between a Hasselblad and a Holga could not be farther in terms of common cameras. yet, Kenna‘s Holga could have been much more interesting to me, rather than a continuation of his previous work with the acceptance of increased vignetting and some edge blurring.
from Michael Kenna’s Holga book.