Your photograph Sydney makes me want to watch Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Eclisse, again. In your black-and-white photograph, you capture the vortex of steel architecture, arresting against the counterpoint of clouds. I am hearing in mental rewind Gene Youngblood’s insightful commentary on architecture in the first minutes of L’Avventura included on the DVD, the contrast of the old buildings against the new and how Antonioni uses portals, arches, and doorways to frame the literal and metaphoric passage of his characters. Beyond Youngblood, it brings up the issue of still photographers in their relationship to architects.
The architect envisions and creates the structure, then the photographer documents/interprets that structure in a kind of (re)visioning. Are photographers then subservient to the architect’s statement, relegated only to interpretation? A footnote or a (re)visionIng that might underscore or challenge, that might question or exclaim. Thinking about this can be a cul de sac of sorts, since words alone may lead to simple either/or choices, whereas the photographic image may play on metaphoric thinking calling up simultaneous options. Zones of gray areas. Not to mention techniques like the blur, which engages the viewer in terms of gap theory, to add that which is missing, namely image definition. The eye wants to focus the out-of-focus image, to make sense of it. There is the cliché of memory blur, the indistinct past pressing on the present and a challenge to dismantle the cliché. The degree of blur, selective blur, peripheral blur, and vignetting. Recall that Thomas Bewick popularized the vignette with his late 18th century woodcuts in opposition to strict rectangular framing. I want to come back to the blur, later, particularly referencing Blow-Up and Persona.
Thinking about ruins in architecture, I have seen Jonathan Andrew’s haunting photographs of WWII German bunkers along the Normandy coast, standing defiantly in the face of time and erosion as mute testimony of an insufferable conflict. The architecture of war: aggression, assault, nightmare, fear, victory— what is the testimony of these eroding concrete bunkers? The photographer becomes the interlocutor, transporting the past into the present, the insistence of memory reclaimed. The photographer becomes then the “architect” of the present, employing the consciousness of the past, making visual statements and perhaps posing questions without words. This way the photographer becomes the designer of a visual catapult that launches viewers beyond the building, structural habitat, or ordered space. We are seeing what we don’t see
In another of your photographs, we see two girls, but one of them is cut off at the frame edge, and you wondered about the effect, the implication. Your framing echoes in a way Robert Rauschenberg‘s photograph “Norman’s Place.” https://s-media-cach...3134f35f0cd.jpg
Fleshing out the elements of Rauschenberg’s interior, there is a seeming nonchalance to the construction and framing, an almost Bohemian, Beat generation attitude. Rauschenberg gives us that it is Norman’s place, but is it Norman who is sitting on the floor wearing only jeans, back against the wall, his hand poised as though he may get up at any moment? His identity is purposely withheld, out of frame, no accident. We are intrigued, engaged. Attention is riveted, instead, on the telephone sitting on the floor; is it about to ring, is it actually ringing, or has it just stopped ringing? There is mystery here, a voice asking for translation. Who is calling or about to call? Is the young man obstinately ignoring the phone call? Any number of scenarios pose themselves. And the mystery is exacerbated only by the framing that denies us information. Without the cut-off framing, the mystery would suffer, and the photograph would be, perhaps, commonplace.
Again, it is an example of the Romantic fragment poem, purposefully mocking “found poem fragments” that are missing part of the beginning and end but provide just enough so the reader can imagine what is missing and mentally reconstruct the whole, but thinking can be paralysis. What is the intellectual itinerary? Moreover, what is the photographer’s itinerary? Are we eavesdropping on the conversation that the photographer is having with a subject? What is the velocity and trajectory of that interplay? What intellectual movement do the contrails betray? How are we to decipher even the form of its language? Its code to decipher? Is there an identifiable echo that resonates from one piece to the next? Simply, a theme. Or the anthem of an anti-theme? There is, of course, the lens of the camera pressed into the service of the lens of the photographer’s vision that refracts that vision, sometimes with studied purpose and other times with a casual knee jerk or something in between. Recognize the room for improvisation and chance.
Notes to self. The topography of a mental landscape, photographic notations, footnotes that inform. John Keats employed in his poetry the notion of ekphrasis, but now expanding the definition to include photography, it implies a photograph that suggests a narrative beyond the photograph itself.