The photograph above is one I shot myself. For me photography often informs and guides my paintings, either as sketches for my work, or they in one way or another serve as design studies for my paintings. Recently I’ve been experimenting with painting on photographs. Photography and painting are interrelated to me. But I’m an amateur photographer. The photographers I’d like to share with you are really good and elevate photography to an art form.
First is David Maisel, who has a series of his photographs showing at Lens Culture, entitled “Oblivion”. (Thanks to C-Monster for providing the link to the works.) The works are majestic aerial photographs of Los Angeles. In his works, patterns of meta-designs show how the vast city has engulfed the landscape. There’s something organic about seeing the city from this far away in the photographs, reminding me of human cells, growing and multiplying. Often times the imagery evokes what might be considered a cancer on the body of the earth, covering the natural landscape.
According to Maisel, “in this series from Los Angeles, I am using images that underscore the cyborg nature of the city and its environs as a way to explore a kind of contemporary oblivion, a series of sites that are both place and non-place. Themes of development as a kind of self-generating, self-replicating force that exists outside of nature are encoded in these images, which view Los Angeles as both a specific site and as a more generalized condition.”
To me, there’s something eerily religious about these photographs, as if the photos were taken from God’s vantage point, a view larger than human beings should see from. A truth comes into view from this vantage point, which obliterates the individual. How many individual people’s hopes and dreams can you count in the image below?
Next up is Holly Andres’s thoroughly charming narrative photograph series entitled “Sparrow Lane”, being shown at Quality Pictures. (Thanks to PORT for the link to the exhibit.) Andres is an interdisciplinary artist, working in photography, film and installations, and she’s employing a large amount of skills from all concentrations in this wonderful body of work. Andres holds an MFA from Portland State University and currently works in Portland, Oregon. Remarkably, she studied painting early on as a student at the Art Institute of Seattle, and I can’t help thinking that much of what she learned about creating two-dimensional works in painting and the use of color informs her photographic work today.
According to Andres’s bio “the recurring themes in my work explore the experiences in my life that have impacted and constructed my identity. I am interested in revisiting, recreating and preserving that history, but am especially fascinated with the interweaving of fact and fiction, and finding a place in which autobiography and fictitious narration come together.” Many times artist statements end up being gibberish and bear no resemblance to the work at hand. Not this time. Andres accomplishes exactly what she inspires to do in these works in a precise manner.
The photographs in “Sparrow Lane” are highly choreographed images, but instead of seeming stiff, the choreography adds to the tension (and the charm) of the context of the works: the age when young girls transition into womanhood; drawn forward by their curiosity at what lay ahead of them in life, meanwhile tentative and keeping one foot safely inside their youthful innocence. That curiosity – trepidation interplay is wonderfully illustrated in the photos. The color, the lighting, the composition, the wonderful subjects who are acting out these allegorical scenes, they all boldly add up to an articulate and sensitive visual communication.
Next up is the 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner for photography, Preston Gannaway. She’s a photojournalist in Concord, New Hampshire, about an hour from my childhood home. Her work captures a family grieving the death of a family member, not in an aesthetically artistic way, but the way a journalist documents events. These responses to death, captured in the photograph, are utterly engaging.
In the image below Gannaway captures the moment right after the family’s matriarch passes away, and the many faces of human emotion and confusion in response to her passing. At the scene’s emotional center of the piece lay the unanimated body of an elderly woman, just moments after life within is extinguished. A very engrossing photograph.