22 August 2008

Stephen Shore on digital photography,

"I see digital as a two-sided phenomenon. The fact that pictures are free can lead to greater spontaneity. As I watch people photograph (with film), I often see a hesitation, an inhibition, in their process. I don't see this as much with digital.

There seems to be a greater freedom and lack of restraint. This is analogous to how word processing affects writing: one can put thoughts down in writing, even tangential thoughts, with a minimum of inner censorship, knowing that the piece can be edited later. The other side of this lack of restraint is greater indiscriminancy. Here's a tautology: as one considers one's pictures less, one produces fewer truly considered pictures."

Andrew Moore on the creative process,

"My friend Julius Shulman is very fond of saying that the camera is the least important aspect of taking pictures. With students I try to emphasize that photography is an extended process of decision-making and not about a singular "decisive moment." (One revelation of the digital era is that this notion of "process" has been made quite explicit.) So in my classes we talk about everything from very detailed technical issues, to questions of strategy for finding and approaching a subject, as well as personal and philosophical questions about the ideas that illuminate their images. I feel strongly that the collaborative aspect of picture making is ultimately what enriches and expands one's ability to see and to know, and perhaps as their teacher, I'm one part of that collaboration. Often photography students start out thinking that they have to work alone, which may have something to do with cherished myths regarding the secretive or isolated artist. However, the best student work I come across is both inclusive in a personal sense and expansive with regards to culture and the world at large."

Andrew Moore on photographing people,

I think this debate about pictures with or without people is inconsequential as a matter of overall artistic value. However, and again referring to Julius Shulman, if you look at his best pictures, the people are as carefully orchestrated as the construction of the architectural space. His "characters" locate the image in a particular point in time, and moreover, they enact a fantasy about American life, which is what I admire most about those images. Julius chose with care the models (or friends), clothes, props, etc. which most closely fit his vision of that space and accompanying lifestyle. Yet what he did best, and I have talked often with him about this, involved the "direction" of the people in his images, both their placement within the frame and their physical gestures. What makes his pictures extraordinary is the complex mixture of the real and the ideal, because in Shulman's photographs his characters are both imitating life as well as offering up an idealized version of it.

For example, there's a fantastic picture of a house shot from poolside in Palm Springs: a man in a bathing suit holds a towel wrapped around his neck with both hands while speaking to a woman who's reclined in a chaise longue and shading the sunlight off her face with her raised hand (on the other side of the frame is the architect himself, Richard Neutra, seated and reading some papers). The couple's relaxed pose balances out the aggressive industrial shapes of the house, and also embodies the idyll of postwar American life. Julius, even at 96 years of age today, is incredibly observant of the behavior of people, and he intuitively understood, much like a film director, how to get people into "character," as well as how their poses would play out within the context of the larger "scene." (Just by way of contrast, consider an artist like Saenredam, the 17th-century Dutch painter of church interiors and perhaps the first purely architectural artist. He created beautifully complex spaces out of Reformation interiors, but the little genre figures that provide a sense of scale and populate the lower parts of the panels were actually painted in by another artist.) As someone who loves and photographs architecture all the time, I truly admire Julius' ability to place figures in his spaces: it's extremely difficult to do well, perhaps more difficult than anything else, especially in large format, and Julius is absolutely a model to study for anyone interested in this problem."

D woke up at 8/22/2008 01:28:00 PM [comment]

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