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August 30, 2004

Triptychs, Collages, Pinholes Used to Explore Memory and Identity With Style and Grace


More quick hits, while I take care of some minor problems with the site:

* Paola Ferrario is a Rhode Island based photographer and teacher with quite a pedigree of awards (Taylor-Lange grant, Guggenheim fellowship in photography) and degrees (MFA in Photography from Yale), but what's most impressive about her website and various projects is how understatedly and quietly poetic her work is. All her projects -- from the dreamy, triptych based Traveler and Inheritance, to the more ostensibly "straight" yet still moody "Royal Mills" and "Texas Cotton Towns" -- are quiet and modest, but pack a punch that many contemporary photojournalists and conceptual photographers struggle to achieve.

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Paola Ferrario triptych, from Inheritance series

From her statement for the series "Traveler":

"We live in an age of paradox, where we romanticize ethnicity but at the same time we work to convert the world into a global village. We are dependent on new technology, and yet we strive to preserve ancient time consuming crafts. I felt the best description of our time could come only if I allowed for a virtual world made of fragments and indefinable geographic locations…for the Traveler series, although retaining a concern for historical accuracy, I have given myself more liberty in order to emphasize my role as the lyrical observer and visual poet."

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Paola Ferrario image, from Texas Cotton Towns

* Eustaquio Neves is a Brazilian photographer with a very interesting portfolio of alternative-process based collages that (obliquely) speak to colonialism and to the history of African slaves in Brazil, and (in another portfolio), the mythic role of football in Brazil is explored. Like Fereiro, Neves doesn't hit the viewer over the head with his explorations of some heavy themes...he chooses to meditate on these themes by using symbolism and layers in his photographs.

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"Urban Chaos" Eustaquio Neves image

* Finally, Gerard Lange is a very recent MFA photography degree recipient based in New Orleans who has a substantial body of work (mostly pinhole images) centered around memory. His website has the most comprehensive collection of his work, but it seems to be undergoing some renovation, as over half the portfolios seem to be down. My favorite portfolio, though, is up at his site and at the Meter gallery: Les Etudes, minimalist color pinhole images that provide hints of the everyday, but with enough distance to leave me with a feeling of disquiet...the spare details and washes of color are sprinkled expertly throughout the portfolio.

The tools of soft focus, vignetting and pinhole have been done so much that (as I've said before in this blog) they've become, in the wrong hands, mannerisms every bit as affected and trite as the commercial photographs they supposedly provide an alternative to. I personally find I have an increasingly limited appetite for the toy camera/lomo/pinhole aesthetic as more of it floods out there...it's like gorging on the greasy, overflavored buffets that cheaper ethnic restaurants offer at lunch...quick satisfaction, and it's better than McDonald's, but do it a few times and it's just as forgettable.

Lange escapes this trap with his best work...the most minimalist of his images are impressionist in the best possible sense of the word...abstractions that flirt with prettiness but use details and hints of the contemporary to provide some weight.

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"Balance" Gerard Lange pinhole image

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