Photographic Journey

Sebastião Salgado

“Nothing can have absolute or accidental priority in monochrome, nothing can leap out simply by virtue of its colour. Black and white puts everything on equal footing, on the same planet.” -Sebastião Salgado: Genesis – review on the Guardian

The scope and subject matter of Genesis is unarguably staggering – the tonal contrast in these photos really brings out the emotion, movement and depth of the subject. What I found particularly interesting is that with careful composition and the use of light, the scale of the subject can change (perhaps due largely to the monochromatic quality of these photos), be easily manipulated, or even seem removed. I found myself having to study the photos to find indicators that would set the size of the scene. The rivers or veins of snow on a mountain can seem like veins on a leaf and the photo he took of the South Right Whale almost seems like landscape at first glance.

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Genesis whale

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Similarly, the pieces that really stood out to me at MoMA were by artists who continued this theme of light manipulated/ abstracted subject but at an entirely different scale.

Francis Bruguiére @ MoMA

Bruguiére creates abstracted forms by using dramatic light and shadow. Pictured below are his studies of cut-paper constructions. He also experimented with techniques such as solarization (selectively darkening part of an image by exposing it to light) and creating superimposed images through multiple exposures of a single piece of film.

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Ira Martin @ MoMA

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Barbara Kasten @ MoMA

Abstraction through juxtaposition of objects, shapes, and textures (corrugated, reflective, smooth).

Barbara Kasten

The emotion evoking journey from the photographic essays at Aperture is a common reaction shared by all of us, which is evident through other blog posts. A more technical observation made there was how the photos – though taken from different angles, under different lighting conditions and in varied surroundings can read cohesively as a collection. I think this is largely attributed to the similarity in tonal qualities shared by the prints – as found in Sebastião Salgado monochromatic series, the balance of black, white and wide range of greys make the photos a compelling read, even from afar.

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Lastly, the image of 42nd Street, Times Square photographed by Philip-Lorca diCorcia really captured my attention because it had an almost rendered/painted quality to it due to its lighting condition. The two men in overcoats have the most perfect slithers of light falling on their right arms and yet, the pedestrian passing in the other direction is almost completely drowned in darkness.

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