Take a Ride on a Token Brain.
Thursday, July 6th, 2000
Photography? I've been fiddling around for eight years with my classic Pentax K1000 fully manual SLR. That is, I had been fiddling around for eight years. I haven't touched that thing, bought film or paid for developing since I received a digital camera for X-mas, and considering my present economic-water-treading, I'd like to keep it that way. Someday I'll have the ducats to buy a digital SLR, but until then I'll be stop-bath drooling over the golden years, when I had control over depth of field in my images. With the aperture control on my 35mm camera, I can control which elements of a scene will appear in focus in the final image. With my digital camera, every person I take a picture of inevitabley has a tree growing out of their head. Because of this limitation, I think my strongest digital photographs operate in a flat plane, relying on structure, compositional elements, and color, just as an abstract painting might.
But with my manual, monochromatic darkroom days on the brain, I've been poking around looking for images by my favorite photographers. I think Minor White created truly beautiful images, subtle and detailed photographs that not only capture the subjects, but present the viewer with an equivalent emotional message. There is a spiritual drama in White's work that asks for more than just a casual view. His photographs focus on the power of beauty, and I find them diffucult to discuss in specific terms. Perhaps that's frequently a sign of great art.
I enjoy Robert Frank's critical explorations of prejudiced 1950s America, particularly his classic Route 66 series, images which, according to Jack Kerouac, "sucked a sad, sweet, poem out of America". If you've ever driven Route 66, you can imagine. I never feel that Frank is artificially boxing his subject matter into a corner, but occasionally his photographs seem to have too palpable a design upon me.
Diane Arbus continually unearthed a secretly grotesque America in the dark portraits she snapped. Her photographs confuse and intrigue me, and I always want to see more of them This remarkable biography of Arbus includes a few.
I came upon the work of Lee Freidlander about a year ago, and I'm pretty sure he's my favorite. His photographs don't shove anything in your face; they're casual, but manage to comment on the complexities and absurdities of life in this big old country. His ecclectic images often have a gentle humor about them, which I find very appealing. Perhaps I just identify with his point of view. His suburban landscapes seem to say "Eh? Eh." That's not an easy sentiment to capture on film, but our Modern America would seem to insist that Friedlander try anyway.
10:40 AM |