Sunday, December 12, 2010

Found Still Life

Title: "Carefully considered, but uncontrived"
(click on image to view larger)
I was at an artist's talk a couple of weeks ago given by my friend Dave Aharonian for a show of his at the Lúz Gallery. The show contained two bodies of work, both printed in platinum: beautiful, isolated views of the west coast landscape, and figure studies in the rainforest. An audience member commented that the figure studies seemed contrived, and asked whether the photographer had placed the models in these positions. Dave replied that he worked with professional models who usually came up with the poses themselves. Actually, I was surprised by the question because I've long felt that most figure in the landscape images suffer from the "garnish" syndrome as I've come to call it: the model seems to be draped like a garnish over some feature of the landscape. One of the strengths of Dave's work is how he successfully integrates the figures into the landscape, and the interesting thing about the images he had in this show was the disparity in the scale of the landscape (huge) compared to the figure (quite small and in some cases almost unnoticeable).

I was struck by the sobriquette "contrived", since it is difficult to imagine any figure work (other than the voyeuristic, à la Miroslav Tichy) that wouldn't be posed (and thus contrived), nor most still life studies. Indeed, in the case of still life paintings, art history is rife with explanations of the symbolism in the elements chosen and in their placement within the composition. Modern artists often work very hard to construct still life compositions that look random and natural (although they by definition are not). One of the joys I find in photographing the local coast is the rich source of "found" still life compositions. The objects and their placement is to some extent random, although subject to the forces of wind, sun and ocean surges. As a photographer, I have to be aware and looking, and make considered choices in composing images from these seemingly random collections of flotsam.

1 comment:

J. M. Golding said...

In what you describe, the creation is the photograph, not the arrangement of the objects :-)