Monday, April 18, 2011

John Pfahl

With in this series John Pfahl shoots through a series of windows, often with picturesque or at least distinctive views. In his artist's statement, he mentions the idea that his view point is controlled by the vision of some one else, the architect, the decorator, the landscaper, etc. I think it is this idea that draws me to the series more then anything. The project is a lot like a school assignment; he is given a preset frame and scene but then it is up to him to make the subtle movements that bring together a composition. In this case, the centered cars and building are the major compositional element while angled lines of the pavement, and the perspective on the building play minor directional roles. More then anything, the richness of the texture and grit in the color is what really brings this image to life. The browns in the pavement and blues in sky as well as the yellow light bulbs really create a beautiful atmosphere.

In this image, the window almost turns the photograph into a strange sort of triptych. the careful placement of the window panes flattens background into what could easily be another photograph. To prevent this from totally flattening the image Pfahl includes a table and book in the foreground. Though the book cover is not perfectly clear, the colors and formation on it seem to reflect what is just outside the window. Though it may be a tint on the window, the center pane appears much lighter then the outer two. Although this does allow for more detail in the trees and land below the rays of the sun, it mutes the right yellow and blue that show up in the other two windows as well as the book. 

This window is different from his others in that the surface is more the subject then what is beyond. The broken glass and wire mesh give the air of an abandoned city building. This in combination with the angular form that is beyond the window makes me fairly certain that it is in a city. When composing this, Pfahl was carful in his placement of both the vertical and horizontal elements of the picture. Rather then shooting the window just perfectly dead on, he moved to make sure that the vertical edge of the building lines up with the thick vertical window pane. Horizontally, he divided the back ground into three parts. The sky takes up one row of frames, the grey part of the building takes up two, and the darker section covers the remaining two.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Joel Meyerowitz

When thinking about Meyerowitz work, it is important to keep in mind his intent: to capture as completely as possible the feeling, the atmosphere, or a scene. His use of the color is supposed to be a purely accurate description of what he sees. As simplistic as this seems, it is interesting to look for what it is that he chooses to include. Though he is trying to be honest in his 'document' of the environment, he is still making choices as to what to include and what not to include. In this image, for example, he makes the decision to include the car, and not just a little bit of it. He portrays the feeling of this particular place as the tan interior of what looks like an overheated van. Some how, the inclusion of so much of the van makes it feel warmer. Although I am sure it is hot outside too, the color of the interior and the way the light falls through the windows amplifies and confines the feeling in a way palm trees and blue skies wouldn't.

In this image, it is the handling of what is in and what is not in the frame that really show Meyerowitz attention decision making. He places the frame in such a way that he can get the most out of the scene. From the sliver of a man on the far left to the person entering the frame on the right, from the central figures knees to half way up the skyscrapers behind them. It feels like each decision he made was something of a compromise; he chose to leave out the feet of his subjects to show the little bit of the sky that gives the city its feeling of ascension. He cut back on the man to the left to show the motion of the one on the right. Perhaps the most striking feature of the photograph is the strong diagonals coming from either side. Though the close in on the picture, they are characteristic of the depth and seeming endlessness of the streets in the city. 

This photograph stood out because of the blatant use of the limitations of the photographic medium. In much of Joel Meyerowitz work, the camera becomes lost in his attempt to include as much as possible. Here however, he is not trying to hide the camera; instead, he uses the limitations of a slow shutter to enhance the feeling of wind and motion that the picture has. The wispy clouds and the swirl of the laundry play off each other, giving the impression of a gusty day. This is counteracted by the solid form of the house which fills the right half of the frame as a imposing force, there fight the wind. Though the close crop and use of motion blur seem to depart from Meyerowitz typical style, he uses them effectively to portray the feeling of that particular moment. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

JoAnn Verburg

In the photography of JoAnn Verburg, the selective focus and focal planes of the eight-by-ten she shoots with are used to dramatize her otherwise ordinary subjects. Even in this image, a situation where the view camera would be ideal for maximum depth of field, she choses to place the focus on the first window, letting the viewer guess at the rest of the image. Her typically pastel color pallet lends its self to the air of mystery present in so much of her work. Formally well composed, this image takes a more geometric approach to composition then much of her other photography. The dark triangle in the bottom left balances the light triangle formed by the windows in the top right. The slice of ground that leads to the door on the right is played off with the inclusion of the structure behind the wall on the top of the same side.

More so then the previous image, this photograph is characteristic of Verburg’s whimsical, dream like, style.  Once again the bright day light and pastel colors suggest a happy, cheerful place.  The entire image is a balance between the blur selective focus and the crisp points where she brings out her chosen subjects into sharp clarity. Here the close tree branch and then the tree behind it are the subject of her focus. This duality suggest a macrocosm-microcosm theme in which both the individual part and the group as a whole are shown in comparison.  

Diptychs, triptychs and polyptychs make up another facet of Verburg's work. The choice of devisions with in this specific piece are especially fascinating. across the horizontal borders, the images line up fairly well, the news paper seems continuous as do the tress and wall. However, when moving vertically the transitions are less smooth. Here the movement from one set to the next is prohibited by the focus selection, a deliberate tool which JoAnn Verburg enjoys using. At first glance the leaves above the man appear as though they belong below him. the selective focus masks the wall that they sit on and puts the bench in an underground world. Once again the soft focus on the trees plays an important part of the transition. She effectively throws the top set back ground by choosing to only focus on the upper half of the images, making them feel distant while still retaining detail in the upper parts. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lynn Saville

When I saw the title of Lynn Saville’s book “Night Shift” I immediately knew I was going to enjoy the work. All night photographs in full color, all brimming with the tones and shades of a thousand street lamps and outdoor house lights, the series is an investigation of the beauty of artificial lights. In this specific picture, the green interior light spills out onto the pavement, looking like an alien presence in comparison with the natural blue and slight pink of the sky. The bridge overhead breaks up what mass of blue creating another formal element that plays off of the dark building, almost becoming a continuation of it.  

Thomas Demand

Demand's pictures are purely about formal relationships. The tightness of the compositions in terms of both line and color turns his photographs into what could by a 2D study of composition. Though the images are of spaces, he uses stopped down apertures to achieve a depth of field long enough to flatten the space into one plane. This particular image is comprised of parallelograms of varying sizes and colors. The larges elements are the orange and blew of the two tables, the turquoise of the floor and the gray of the two machines. Each of these shapes is balanced by the smaller shapes the break up the larger masses, the telephone, control box and plastic tubs. Every border is engaged while the space within is fully activated.

Miguel Rio Branco

I stumbled across this photographer in the library while shelf-reading and was immediately intrigued by his use of color. His photographs move between documentary subjects with a fine art eye, as is the case here, and Nan Goldin style subcultures of Brazil, with low light and lots of motion blur. In many of his photographs, Miguel mixes light temperatures to achieve the range of colors his images exhibit. In this image, the subject is the shoe that is falling apart; however, the interest of the photograph is the color play between the blue smoke and rocks and the read earth. Perhaps achieved by combining fire light and day light, it is this juxtaposition that gives the photograph life.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Hines, Summer, Speers

Jessica Hines

My Brother’s War, a series by Jessica Hines, is a powerful series. The entire thing is a Morell like juxtaposition between the two-dimensional (images, pictures, letters, book pages,) and three-dimensional. She uses the flat to serve as a literal representation of the past while placing it in a very real and current space. Her especially strong images are the ones where she finds ways to integrate the two through visual relationships. She uses horizon lines and geographic features to unite landscapes and photographs as well as light reflections and glass magnification to mix written documents and their surroundings.

Louisa Marie Summer

In this next series, Jennifer’s Family by Louisa Marie Summer, the main idea was to give a view of urban poverty based off interaction with one family. This series however struck me as what David Hurn called exploitation. It felt like something that had been shot over the course of a week with little to no real interaction between the photographer and the subject. There was no apparent deep connection to the family, and, in all truthfulness, the series did not break down any stereotypes as the artist had hoped. For this to be successful, Summer would probably have had to spend the next decade with that family. If any real truth were to rise to the surface, it would not come from a weekend photo shoot at the neighbor’s house.

Vee Speers

The Immortals is a puzzling series. I am torn between hating the aesthetic of it and loving the concept. It’s basis in the twisting of our ‘ideal of beauty’ and comparison between the modern Photoshop ideal and the historic painterly ideal create an almost painfully perfect view of extremely fake youth. Backed by the statement of purpose, this works well, however alone the images seem overdone. Even with the statement, they are on the borderline of too much. Perhaps a realistic back ground or less edited foreground would have brought the images back to a reality we can identify with.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Soth assignment

Of all the photographs with writing on them, I think I was attracted to this one the most because of the cohesiveness of the image. The fact that the image was re-photographed with the text allowed me to believe that it belonged there. Although I find it a little cheese, it works. The font is appropriate for the image and subject and the picture has none of the cliché that the words hold. 

What first caught my eye about this diptych was the focus on the woman's hair and not her face. because of the depth of field and perfect exposure the image implies professionalism or at least a professional camera. However the focus reverts back to the fact that its still just two kids playing with the camera. it is a beautiful balance between playful childishness and decent technical quality. 

Though this image is not the image of the stranger, it was a product of the conversation that ensued. The interaction between the photographer and the stranger he photographed lead the photographer to this place and this image. Aesthetically, it is one of the better pictures from the assignment, but conceptually  I think it fits with Soth's purpose beautifully. it is all about the idea of going back to the basics and then letting that lead us out again. 

I chose this image for two reasons, one the light and two the color. first, the play of the light across the child's shirt and back into the shadows very interesting. At the same time, none of the details in the shadow arias are lost. Secondly, the blues in the image fit so well together. the range from desaturated blue of the carpet to the bright blue in the upper left, the green blue of the shirt to the pink of the run and the child ear; it is all so well coordinated and balanced it could be a color study. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Philip-Lorca diCorcia

Philip-Lorca diCorcia on "Hookers" and "Thousand"

The first think to strike me about diCorcia's photography was the grungy, Nan Goldin-esque, style and subject. The photographs appeared to me like something the photographer snagged at the local club, a quick snap shot taken before the subject has time to react. In part, I was right in this, and in part I was drastically wrong. The first series "Hookers," the one I found most similar to Nan Goldins work was actually executed more in the style of Jeff Wall. The photographs are set up, the lighting is found or staged, Polaroid's of assistants make preliminary sketches and then finally diCorcia finds a hooker to pose for the picture. The second series, "Thousand," is comprised of a thousand Polaroids. These are all pictures that were shot as photographic sketches. Precursors to the final photograph, snapshots of family and friends, and just random pictures of everyday things. When looking at these two series, it was amazing to see how they both influence each other. Though the Hooker pictures loose the cheep flash and soft focus quality that are in many of the Polaroids, they retain much of the low-light, quick composition and muted color palate that define the Polaroids. 

Monday, January 31, 2011

Stephen Shore

Though this image follows the documentary style that bothers me so much with most of Shore's work, I find the picture interesting in a way that is uncommon for this upfront, building photography. The juxtaposition of the white, brown and gray houses. Though different colors are normal and even expected, the uniformity of the designs give the impression that they should look the same in all other ways too. The flat, upfront approach serves to add to this feeling of expectant uniformness, all of which is shaken by the shift in color. 

This photograph is made up of a lot of little details that dont really strike me as that important until they are all added together. The shadow of the road sign of the far left points in to where darkened part of the road and the white line form twin arrows. The shadow of the do-not-enter sign hits the hill in such a way that it parallels the upper arm of those two arrows. The dark streak on the road is balanced with the darkening sky on the opposite side of the frame. In the same manner the white of the no-right-turn sign is balanced by the back of the sign on the left. 

To use Ron's favorite hypothetical portfolio review question, "Why should I care about this?" I honestly dont want to look at Shore's McDonnell's meal. Not only is the subject totally bland but the handling of it is just as flat. Flat overhead, florescent lighting, no highlights no shadows. Strait on I'm-about-to-eat-this-but-I-have-my-phone-so-I'll-take-a-pic-and-send-it-to-my-bff view. Oh and he doesn't even take the time to balance the pole sprouting out of the top. He didn't bother to move a couple inches to get rid of it, or a couple inches in other direction to balance it with something on the bottom. The graffiti has potential and thats probably what he saw, but really, it just didn't work. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Todd Hido

Todd Hido's pictures of the interiors of foreclosed houses shows a beautiful handling of light, color, and geometric shape. The recession of the wall, where it meets with the closet and the positioning of the doors all balance to create a simple and eloquent composition. The gentle blue and pink of the cool lighting creates and empty and deserted feeling to the space. This also illustrates how the article described the infinite number of shots that could be taken while only one is the right one. Though this room and even this corner could have been shot from any number of angles, but this one picture that the photographer chose as the "right" one, the one where all the elements align to create balance and calm.

Alec Soth

Though all architecture pictures lean towards a geometry base, this one uses it especially well. The zigzag of the stairs, ceiling and floor are balanced by the solid forms of the door and window on opposite sides. In terms of color, this picture tends towards the "ignore" tactic; what ever color is there is washed out by the flat light. The color plays little to no part in the photograph which is made up purely of composition. Again the subject of the photo has no historical or philosophical significance. In its self, the staircase isn't even a very beautiful one, it is the photograph the makes it aesthetically pleasing. It is not a recording of some eloquent quality that is evident in this rather derelict space; rather the photograph has moved past recording to create its own beauty, just as described by Szarkowski in the reading. 

Doug Dubois

The first thing to strike me about this photograph was the two dimensionality of the space. It seems entirely flat. Secondly, I was surprised by the precise arraignment of all the elements. It is so clean cut, that it is hard to believe that the dinosaur is actually flying and the cild is still in motion. The balance between the blue bottle on the right and the soup holder, as well as the child's eyes and the dinosaur is uncanny. Just as stated by the article, it is a "tension so exact that it is peace." The simplicity and just plain regularity of the subject here is a perfect example of the photography discussed in the article. The subject has no deeper significance then the "pretext for the making of color photographs." 

Friday, January 14, 2011

William Eggleston

A simple street running past a plain house, this image is transformed by the cold, wet, predawn atmosphere of the picture. There is nothing extraordinary about the subject; the attraction is in the lighting. The color almost looks like a tint and, except for a slight warming in the middle of the street, the same effect could be achieved by tinting a black and white photograph. With out the color, the image would still be just as intriguing and mysterious, but it would not have the same cold morning feel that this gives me. I think I like the use of the color for the place setting; it adds an extra piece of information. The large amount of void black in the bottom left bothers me, although the reflective bit of wall does serve to break it up just enough to make it passable. 

The first thing to draw me to this picture is the strong composition. It seems pretty basic, the two descending verticals leading towards the vanishing points of the four receding lines that radiate out of the center of the right half of the image. It is a simple and eloquent handling of the classic vanishing railroad. The color is a warm wash of low sunlight. The orange light brings out the yellows of the fall trees and the brown and red in the rust and decay on the tracks and posts. In black and white, the image would be far more abstracted; there would be no way off guessing time of year and day. Though it would still work in black and white, it would be far less interesting and would need a lot more contrast. 

Of all the Eggleston photos I looked at, the subject and possible 'meaning' of this held my attention far longer then any of the others. In his typical everyday style, the image is of something totally normal even obnoxiously mundane, the back of a woman's head. What makes this picture interesting is the presence of the she blots out, made apparent by the hand holding a cigarette on the opposite side of the table. In terms of color, the two dominate colors are the red of the brick and the faded green on the booths. Shades of pink and red flow through the table, the woman's shirt, and the menu. This juxtaposition of complimentary colors adds a strange tension that would not be there were the picture in black and white. I especially like the clash between the light green and the pink of the woman's shirt. Another intriguing correlation is drawn between the cigarettes that both the figures hold. These slight gestures bring the eye around that side, leading back towards the middle while some not vignetting contains the upper corners.