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.


thesuicidehandbook said...

great blog !!!
all the best !!!

Anonymous said...

wow, a truly excellent post which raised quite a few questions. i especially enjoyed the excerpt about caring/not caring, and i completely agree with falls re: getting an idea of where an artist is coming from. context holds the key to so much.

thanks! keep up the great work :)

Mariana Soffer said...

Very interesting:
"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"
I think you talk in part about getting truly involved, doing it for real. Here is a quote related to that:
"I’ve been doing a series of spirals. You know how it is with us artists. We take one idea, and then beat it half to death."

Maybe you wan't to check what I say about art in my blog:

Rose H said...

I really enjoy your blog!

Susan Kozlowski said...

Great discussion.
I love the concept of viewing art as questions that are being presented to the viewer and interpreter.

outofcharacter said...

i liked this entry. i believe that the viewer, or reader in the case of literature, can never fully understand what the author is putting forward, regardless of how clear the artist is, or how clear the artist thinks he is. just based on the viewers' own sense of self, understanding of words/pictures, and personal experiences, naturally their interpretations will always differ from what was intended, if only marginally.

in any event, both the photos and the entry on the whole is intersting and beautiful.

Shawna said...

Very random, but your capitalization threw me off. I'm somewhat of a grammar nazi; most days it's all or nothing for me, but I find the fact that you switch in and out very unique.

Mademoiselle D. said...

Loved the post and I agree with Sam Falls, today not only photographed moments ... photographed feelings. as a way to preserve that moment.

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Mariana Soffer said...

Thank you very much, I am honored. You have some awesome photographs for what I saw (and I used to live with a photographer). I think I have you, but if not I add you to, I am assuming you won't mind.
Take care

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This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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