For some reason I have developed an aversion to black and white photography. I’m kind of prejudiced against it, even though it’s not fair or rational. I think I’ve just seen it employed too much as a way to signal This Is A Very Important Photograph, when it may not be an important photograph at all. I’m sorry, but just shooting with Tri-X film or converting your files to grayscale does not make Very Important Photographs.
So imagine my surprise when I discovered some black and white work on the Critical Mass cd that I’m really taken with.
Kirsten Hoving uses ice and 19th century objects and photographs to represent various constellations in the night sky. I adore the square, and the use of circles echoes the curvature of the earth. I love just contemplating the imperfections of the ice in the photographs. I can’t really imagine the patience (not to mention cold fingers!) required to create this kind of work. I also love Hoving’s colour work (shocking I know) — you can find it on her website in the Obstacles and Roots and Wings portfolios.
I don’t really know how to talk about Jennifer Hudson’s series, Medic. At first view I thought they were showing weird experiments. But somehow I couldn’t be sure. So I went to her artist statement:
“Medic is a sensitive, intricate glimpse into human relationships during times of need and recovery and a complex, heartfelt exploration of sacrificial love. The work began wholly on one sentence whispered by my husband while we were enduring deeply frightening times together. He held my hand, lay close to me and said softly “I just wish I could take the pain from your body, and put it into mine.” I have been fortunate to know incredible love all my life, but at that moment I became suddenly and intensely aware of the magnificent power that exists between people who care for one another. When I was anxious and fighting to fall asleep each night, I began to invent miracle machines; contraptions that heal, deliver hope, legacy, remedy, and redemption. Each image from Medic is a thoughtful invention, strange and tender, revealing facets of the delicate human heart.”
Rachel Phillips submitted a series called A Thousand Words. Each image is inspired by words from a 20th century letter. I find them absolutely stunning to look at, and the phrases she chose are quietly evocative. I want to know what was in the whole letter, but then again maybe I don’t. Taking the phrases out of context may be what creates the magic I find in the images. I couldn’t stick to just three images.
Did you notice that all the above photographs are of scenes or objects crafted by the artist? I’m noticing a definite fondness on my part for this kind of work. I’m not sure why this is, but I think I’m becoming disillusioned with traditional documentary photography and photojournalism. So contiuing the theme of work along this line, I’ll move onto some colour practitioners.
Nicole Dextras submitted her series of Weedrobes – garments she created out of plants. Again, I can’t believe the patience and craftsmanship, not to mention urgency (I mean, a dress made out of lilac flowers???), that went into the garments. They are tremendous. On her website, she’s created a sort of comic strip-like presentation for some of the garments, sort of documenting performance pieces. The photography itself isn’t super fantastic, but I can’t resist what’s IN the photographs.
I couldn’t help but notice a whole lotta photographs of abandoned spaces on the Critical Mass cd. I feel the pull of these kinds of spaces and the signs of life left behind too, but when you see the same kind of image over and over again, it loses its appeal real fast let me tell you. But Alejandra Laviada has a refreshing approach to this subject matter. I’m just going to post most of the statement she submitted, because it’s a fine example of an artist statement: clear, concise, down-to-earth, it provides an entrance to the work without telling me so much that I no longer need to look at it.
“Over the past few years, I have been photographing different spaces that are in the process of being demolished or redeveloped. I use the sites as a temporary studio and photograph my interventions in each space.
For Re-Constructions, I gathered discarded material from the Hotel Bamer and used it to create a series of ephemeral sculptures off-site. The Hotel Bamer was a landmark in Mexico City in the 1950’s and a site I had previously photographed in 2006. It was left abandoned for several years and is now being redeveloped. Throughout this period of time, I have revisited the site several times to photograph various aspects of its decay and transformation.”
David Welch creates totems to make comments about our consumer culture. I like that they make me think about all the stuff in the world, but I also just enjoy their form.
When I showed this work to my husband, he expressed surprise that it was submitted to a photography competition, since it’s really more like sculpture. I see where he’s coming from, and I had the same response myself when I saw Kevin Van Aelst’s work in last year’s Top 50. But if had found these objects as is, that would unquestionably be photography. And it’s unquestionably photography when someone sets up a shot in a studio. To me, this is just a small step further, and it’s still photography, since photography is necessary for sharing such physically local and temporary art.