November 10, 2004
Color, Crime Sets, and Deadpan and Dreamy Fashion
The latest interesting photographers and links:
* Another branch that falls close to the Eggleston tree, with a wonderful color sense but a voice all his own: New-Orleans based photographer William Greiner now has his own website. I'm not able to comment on how well the web images match up to the originals, but they sure look great online and feature superbly idiosyncratic color (especially by web standards). Best of all, the website is easy to navigate, with all the featured portfolios worth visiting...too hard to pick a favorite, but I especially loved Cryptography. (thanks to Christian Patterson for pointing William this way)
Niagra Falls, 1992 William Greiner image
* I've said in the past that I have a limited tolerance for the photographic sub-genre that employs dolls and miniatures as its subjects, even though I've seen plenty of individual images I've liked (and have even linked to some work in this space). As with most staged photography, whether it uses humans or dolls, the concepts and the images become more compelling when the unsettling connections to the real world are subtly but surely made (as opposed to hitting the viewers over the head with the messages and the mood).
In this respect, the 19 miniature sets of crime scenes put together by Frances Glessner Lee in the 1940s, known as the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, and photographed recently with a large format camera by Corinne May Botz, fit the bill. The obsessive quality of these dioramas is effectively given voice by Botz's own obsessive attention to light, color, and camera angles that allow a viewer to actually enter the scenes, and notice small details that hint not only at the source of the crimes, but also the stifling nature of the homes and the lives lived in them.
These photographs are available in a newly released book and are currently being exhibited at the Bellwether Gallery in New York: the website has a generous selection of images that are worth looking at, though unfortunately there is no text to provide the necessary backstory that can animate the images further. A review from the New York Times (reproduced at the gallery site) provides more information on a few scenes, and Vince Aletti of the Village Voice recommends the book and exhibition highly.
Corinne May Botz image
* San Francisco based Mike Bragg has a diverse series of projects on his website, with an unusually good balance between fine art and commercial work. I am most partial to his simplest and most graphic series, forgotten (recognized in the 2004 PDN Annual), space (interior), and space (exterior), which all use the square frame and color very well. It is rare for a photographer to have categories named "hodgepodge1" and "hodgepodge2" that are worth looking at, but he pulls it off. I only wish the images were a bit larger.
Mike Bragg diptych, from "hodgepodge 1"
* Katy Grannan's stark, revealing portraits of small town models in their homes and outdoors have been frequently linked, most often from gallery51 and artnet, and have generated discussion and buzz far and wide, even among Lacanians. I just recently discovered her excellent personal website, which collects all of her fine art portraits as well as her commercial work, and it's a well designed showcase for the versatility of her straight-on, deadpan style, which some feel has worn out its welcome in contemporary photography circles. While the deadpan, faraway look is indeed being run into the ground by too many imitators, most of Grannan's work still looks great because of the types of people she managed to get in front of the camera and the largely unadorned quality of the environments.
As I've fond of noting here, the uneasy contrast between "fine art" and "commercial" often makes for awkwardly combined portfolios and images that can drag down a photographer's website, but in Grannan's case, the inevitable compromises of the commercial work and the more varied (and well-known) subjects seem to open up her portraits...subjects like the Central Park jogger and Abner Louima are still depicted disquietingly, but with more formality and resistance than some of her more awkward suburban models. And the fashion portfolio, which features mostly men, is hilarious and well executed...deadpan works great here. (Only the celebrity portraits don't fare as well, but that's hardly a surprise given the tendency of their personas to defeat any sense of rapport or artistry that can be created in a portrait).
Katy Grannan fashion image for Toro magazine
* And speaking of fashion, this falls in the "I normally hate this stuff so much I can't believe how much I like it" category...extreme digital manipulation, and florid backgrounds and color in fashion images tends to turn me off in a hurry...not to mention Flash sites with cutesy loading touches like a progress indicator with percentages going to 10 decimal places, and the infamous scrolling thumbnails that require video game reflexes. But yes, I do like Can Evgin's style and rapturous color...purists may not consider it photography, and I have to admit that part of the appeal is how many of the images look like very dreamy illustrations or scenes from a graphic novel. As far as fashion goes, it definitely gets your attention, for better or worse. (UPDATE: sorry, my first version of this post actually pointed to another "can evgin" site, with unrelated images. The link should now point to the work I was talking about, which was submitted to Surface Magazine's Avant Guardian competition).
Can Evgin image
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