This week’s round-up includes an exhibition exploring how artists played with the photographic image in the era before photoshop and Christopher Dawson’s images revealing the spectacle behind the spectacle of celebrity news events
There is a smart and funny interview at Aline Smithson’s The Lenscratch blog (photos here) with David Carol, Director of Photography for CBS Outdoors where he has worked for 20 years. Its a great lesson in interviewing technique and an ivaluable lesson in editing your photos. Smithson prods Carol cheekily, “Why are you so uptight about altering your images? They might look better cropped.” To which Carol replies, “I crop the shit out of everything!! Did I just type that or think it? I like the black border. If we can figure out a way to keep that and crop, I’m in. Seriously though, I used to be adamantly against cropping. But, now that I’ve been working more with private students I understand and am more accepting of the idea. Not necessarily for me, but for photographers in general.”
Using a large format 4×5 field camera he documents the media ‘scaffolding’ around these news events. On his website he says he shoots, “the peculiar scene unfolding at these places, where one individual — of real or questionable importance — is thrust to the forefront of the nation’s attention. I’m interested in the bizarre transformation that this massive enterprise brings to the landscape, and the means by which information is being produced and distributed at this important juncture in our history.”
Dawson’s images taken with the large-format camera are in total contrast to the frenzied content of the news. While the news media is mesmerized, hyperstimulated by the intense focus on one event, Dawson’s imagery offers a wider perspective that is full of incidental detail.
And then there’s the contrast he makes between the highly sophisticated logistics and technology of getting everything on screen, and the surreal reality off-screen. Whether it’s the random yellow chicken at the O.J Simpson robbery case…
…or the Casey Anthony trial, where the image of the media at work echoes the wizard behind the screen in Oz.
The question of what we are looking at is also at issue a show in The National Gallery of Art, Washington.
And in the week which featured the rather special, special effects of Man Ray, we arrived rather late (via the good folk at Exposure Guide) at an exhibition of historical image manipulation at the Washington’s National Gallery of Art.
Showing some iconic work, Faking It: Manipulated Photography before Photoshop explores the tradition of paying with the image in highly inventive ways long before the digital age, including “combination printing, photomontage, overpainting, ink and airbrush retouching, sandwiched negatives, multiple exposures, and other darkroom magic.”
It’s a hugely extensive show that covers multiple negative images from the 19th Century, through political and propaganda photomontages by artists such as John Heartfield, to artists such as Yves Klein whose magical ‘Into The Void’ was reproduced at the time as a flyer – street media, social sharing ahead of its time. Klein’s accomplices, Harry Shunk and Jean Kender, composed the image (though there are many conflicting accounts) from a photo of the street scene with the cyclist, and another of Klein jumping into a net/tarpaulin held by members of a judo school across the road. Klein was a judo master as well as an artist, so leaping into space wasn’t unfamiliar.
Finally, Sofia Coppolla releases the trailer of The Bling Ring, the last movie shot by the late great cinematographer Harris Savides, whose work included David Fincher’s The Game, Zodiac, and the opening title sequence in Seven.
But music fans will remember his work on R.E.M.’s promo for Everybody Hurts. Perhaps the true testament to Savides’ craft, or the craft of hiding craft, was comment cited by The New York Times on his death last October. “‘I’m always wary of the fact of making things too beautiful and too photographic,’ he said to the online magazine Cine-Fils in 2009, adding, ‘Some of the most beautiful movies I’ve seen haven’t been very good.'”