Monday, May 11, 2009


i have seen Sam Falls' work lately on different blogs and discussions, most notably on ihp, the Hey, Hot Shot blog and This is That. i agree that there is something fantastic in the (dis)connections between his images and the way he assembles them into a narrative, but that something is not easily articulable.

his latest work, Monocarpic, is a series of still life observances with portraits mixed in, and i picked out a few portraits to feature here. overall, his assemblage of work is fairly diverse and colorful. the three photos above pop up at intervals and stuck out for me. together, they are elusive, creepy, and curly.

i think Subjectify readers will find that a lot of the questions he is tackling are ones we have been butting our heads up against in looking at portraits together in the art-photo context. his interview with Johanna Reed on This is That is a great read. on his approach to portraiture, Sam Falls says:
When it comes to critical theory and influential texts, I was reading and thinking a lot about object-hood and the alienating Other found in photography, especially in photos of the backs of heads...are sort of "anybody portraits," where the viewer is not an Other but left to their own imagination of the central idea of a portrait, which is “What does the face look like?”
in fact, Falls does have several other anti-portraits of the backs of heads (including an entire blurb book of them), but i think the ones above offer a little more in setting a narrative tone than the straight back-of-head images.

the other questions that are primary in his work are ones that i think are at the crux of the relationship between photographers and viewers--and crucial for us to ask each other. why is the artist offering me these images? (and why in this narrative order?) what do i see when i see them? (and what does it all mean?) to find the answers, we have to grapple with the sticky question of the 'author' and authorial intention. does the perspective or identity of the author trump the interpretation of the viewer? or, does the viewer's ultimate interpretation of the 'text' make the photographer's original intent irrelevant? no matter where your feelings fall on this spectrum, these questions come up again and again in visual art, as in literature.

Sam Falls' response seems to be to reject ironic abstraction in his aproach and try to make work that is as personally meaningful as possible. (emphasis on the 'personally.') i'll end with his take on these questions:
I think art is really valuable when the viewer gets to know the artist and where they are coming from. This is where a photographer must relate their subjectivity to the viewer through content and composition. This is perhaps why I've really begun leaning toward photographing the people, places, and things that hold lasting personal value to me. I used to think this was something reserved for amateur photography and photo albums, but now perhaps it needs to be reinstated in a fine art context in today’s image-based world where meaningless images are omnipresent. I mean any advertisement created by a nameless photographer of a model casting a blank stare away from the camera just tells the viewer "I don't care," and I think just saying, "This is what I care about, and you have things you care about," is now a very interesting concept to me.

Friday, May 1, 2009

subject echo: that distinctive sprawl

nice, Ms. Hutchinson!

top image: "Nude, 1936" by Edward Weston, bottom image: "Inspired by Edward Weston 1," from the Model Husband Series by Kate Hutchinson.

here's what Kate Hutchinson has to say about her Model Husband series:
Looking at the intimacy and trust that must exist between two people in order for one to photograph the other throughout their relationship, I take as models these men who used their wives as subjects. I examine their methods and approach through mimicry. How did these artists balance the need to create with the need to preserve something so dear? The relationship between artist and muse is at stake but so is that between husband and wife. How did they, and how do I, resign the two? Futhermore looking at a potential shift in gender roles over the past century I also wonder: are we telling the same story now but in reverse?