Friday, July 8, 2016

#SOL16: Shadow Play

Today I viewed/experienced La Boîte de Pandore Une photography exhibit curated by Jan Dibbets at Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris.  The exhibit features photographs spanning 200 years and juxtaposes old and new in some interesting ways, including some very contemporary works by Seth Price, Wade Guyton, Kelley Walker, and Spiros Hadjidjanos that push against a common understanding of photography and the photograph. I am often puzzled by Seth Price's work and enjoy that puzzlement. He makes me think about what I believe photography is and isn't.  I was reading an interview he gave and was stopped when he was talking about a printer and said, "You just can’t get away from how amazing mistakes look."

"You just can’t get away from how amazing mistakes look" ought to be a tagline for every school of education, for life.

self portrait 
So it was in that spirit of experimentation that I decided to buck the trend and not snap photos with my phone of art work on display at the museum (the day before Dev and I went to the Lourve [ugh, don't ask] and watched as hundreds of people lined up in front of the Mona Lisa snapping pictures with their phones. I wondered then as I do now, what's that about? What compels us to this? Is it as simple as in the face of beauty we are moved to capture it in some way?  Or is there something else, something unsettling about all of that snapping?) Anyway, at the close of the photography exhibit there was a brief filmed interview with the curator. As I watched I began to notice that the hot spotlights in the room allowed for some very interesting shadows to form. Earlier in the exhibit I noticed a shadow of myself that formed against a smooth wall and made a quick image.

So it wasn't too surprising that I drifted from watching the interview and began paying attention to shadows. For two or more months, I have belonged to a Facebook group of photographers who focus on making images of human shadows and to date, I have contributed one image. I have viewed a lot though and surely this influenced me. As I sat in the small room, I unlaced my sneakers pushed them into the light and made an image. I edged my foot into the dark and light and made another image. (Mind you I had this exhibit largely to myself. Everyone else was at the Lourve making snapshots of the art. Okay that was a bit snarky.) I raised my hand, spread fingers and played the piano and so on.

My Right Foot
Player Piano
This interest followed me back into the daylight as I made my way back to the hotel stopping now and then to make an image of a shadow.

Here are a few of the images I made while walking in Paris:

self portrait

self portrait
Man in a Fedora

Self portrait


Towards the end of the exhibit, the curator placed a quote from Towards a Philosophy of Photography by Vilém Flusser (1983).  Flusser writes:

The imagination of the camera is greater than that of every single photographer and that of all photographers put together: This is precisely the challenge to the photographer. Likewise, there are parts of the camera's program that are already well explored. It is true that one can still take new images, but they would be redundant, non-informative images, similar to those one has seen before. As stated elsewhere, redundant photographs are not of interest in this study; photographers in the sense intended here are in pursuit of possibilities that are still unexplored in the camera's program, in pursuit of informative, improbable images that have not been seen before" (pp. 36-37, from here).

Oh to be in pursuit of possibilities--unexplored possibilities.

Some days a phone is just a phone and the camera within is merely a means to reproduce the familiar. It's like a friend you never tire from being with. Some days a phone camera, like any tool, can be used to make something unexpected. Today, was a day of playing and after so many months where grief has more than dogged my step, it was a simple joy that transform the weight of grief into nothing more than shadows.


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