Orange Bluish Little Crayon
Nico’s photographs experiment with varying degrees of abstraction. Abstract art indicates a departure from reality: it is unconcerned with the literal depiction of things and reshapes the natural world for expressive purposes. This departure from accurate representation can be very slight or it can be partial or it can be complete. Nico’s three photographs beautifully illustrate these degrees of abstraction, from top to bottom respectively.
Earth vs. Domo or Domo vs. Earth is an example of very minimal abstraction. Even though one can recognize a figure (Domo), the image (as well as the figure itself) does not represent reality. Nico also plays with focus, emphasizing the texture of the “earth” while the most representational form (Domo) is blurred.
Orange Bluish Little Crayon is a partial abstraction: it refers to real world objects (crayons) and it is recognizable as such, but it has been extracted from the real world and translated into a more expressive image. As Nico writes regarding this photograph, “Because I feel like this all the time, not fitting in with peers but still ‘hanging’ with me.”
Half is an example of total abstraction or nonobjective abstraction and even geometric abstraction. Nonobjective abstraction is that which has been derived from, but does not imitate, a recognizable subject. The image in this photograph is derived from a recognizable subject but it does not in any way resembles the subject. It has been reduced to a geometric abstraction of shapes and textures. Nico writes, “I like making people see in different perspectives (different points-of-view).”
Standing Alone but Sticking Together (sometimes, when we make a difference, we blend into something else)
Ladder to Nowhere (things that lead to nowhere can also lead to infinity)
Irony of Technology (enough said)
Christopher’s photographs can be loosely described as conceptual art. Conceptual art is art in which the concept(s) or idea(s) involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetics and personal emotional expression. Traditional aesthetics is concerned with the nature, creation and appreciation of beauty or sensori-emotional values. Whereas in conceptual art, the aesthetic reward comes from the act of intellectually contemplating the work.
The use of language has played a significant role in the development of conceptual art. Similarly, the titles of each of Christopher’s photographs are an integral component to his work. Through thoughtful and clever use of language, he guides the viewer’s reading of his work. In this sense, he emphasizes a strain in conceptual art where ideas and information through the use of language become the medium, much like a paint brush or a camera.
It might be interesting to note that all three of Christopher’s photographs are not altered in any way. For example, he could have digitally removed all the leaves from the twig-like tree in Standing Alone but Sticking Together or Photoshopped out the rest of the jungle gym in Ladder to Nowhere or digitally manipulated the power line through the tree in Irony of Technology. But these are accurate representations of oddities found by the artist in the real world within his community, which he then documented for use as social commentary and critique.
David’s photographs are stylized explorations of community and identity through the use of contrast--both technical and conceptual. The technical contrast is his use of lighting to create striking silhouettes (as in Post and Rock). And also his use of color versus black&white (as in his color, community photographs of Post and Ant versus his black&white, identity photographs of Rock and Misfit). In addition, David employs dynamic points-of-view that contrast the banality of a telephone pole and a littered sidewalk. His use of technical contrast then emphasizes the conceptual contrast between community and identity and then shows how they overlap.
For example, David differentiates between community and identity by making the community photographs color while the identity photographs are black&white. However, he also shows the sameness or an overlap between community and identity by silhouetting both a community image as well as an identity image. Through his photographs, David exemplifies this struggle between personal identity and community: feeling or wanting to be different from one’s community yet knowing one’s identity is informed by one’s community and perhaps also seeing the beauty in that.
The non-traditional, stylistic installation of Davids’ photographs further highlights his stylized approach to photography. It also further emphasizes the comparisons between each photograph, which waver between difference and sameness.
Out of Sorts
Esmeralda’s photographs play with ideas of juxtaposition that engage the viewer in a discussion of subject and systems. Juxtaposition is the close placement of contrasting ideas used, in this case, to stimulate perception and understanding outside of dominant associations. A post-structuralist approach believes the only way to understand a subject (which has multiple meanings) is to study both the subject itself and the systems of knowledge, beliefs, framework, environment, or instruments that produce the subject. And the only way to properly understand these meanings is to deconstruct or subvert the assumptions and various systems which produce the illusion of singular meaning.
In Out of Sorts, Esmeralda photographs a sparrow in front of electronic devices. She has removed the subject (sparrow) from its dominant association or environment. By doing so, she persuades the viewer to question the meaning of the subject in this new framework. How does environment and the structures around a subject inform and shape its identity?
In Process juxtaposes a fictional subject (clay model of a giant dog) amongst the instruments which created it, therefore, subverting “suspension of disbelief” and emphasizing the fact of the subject’s fabricated status. In a way, this is a Brechtian technique. Bertolt Brecht was an influential theater practitioner of the 20th century. Brecht employed techniques which remind the viewer that a play (or in this case, a photograph) is a representation of reality and not reality itself. By revealing the constructs that produce a theatrical event, he hoped to communicate that the viewer’s reality is equally constructed and, therefore, changeable.
Cristian’s photographs appear to be documentations of flowers as they exist in nature and in the home. But as the titles suggest, they are much more than that. They act as social commentaries. Social commentary is the idea of implementing or promoting change by informing the general populace about a given problem and appealing to people’s sense of justice.
In Beauty Destroyed, Cristian, during a critique, described the photograph as beauty (in the form of a rose) dying yet seemingly ignored by the two flourishing roses directly adjacent it, on both sides. The two healthy roses almost seem like they’re turning away from the deteriorating one. Cristian relates this image to that of society. He sees how some people who thrive seem to ignore and even turn away from those who are struggling, even though both thriving and struggling people are born from the same root, just like these three roses. He is bringing into awareness the responsibility we all have to one another no matter how we may appear or what stage or circumstances we are in.
In Beauty Tamed, a rose is being kept in a vase. Is it being cared for in someone’s home or is it on display or both? The ray of light might signify hope. Yet the title contains the word, “tamed.” To tame something means to control or domesticate. Cristian brings into question society’s tendency to control beauty: to cultivate it and but it on display instead of simply allowing it to exist as it is.
The Long Walk to Nowhere
Andrea’s photograph is taken directly outside the perimeter of her high school. The image is a depiction of the environment or community surrounding her school. Just looking at the photograph, what feelings does it conjure up? Below, Andrea wrote a description of the photograph she took. After reading Andrea’s narrative, the viewer might question whether the photograph, which depicts a specific environment or community, influenced her interpretation of the image or if her subjectivity filters the reading of the photograph. It is an issue of how one’s perception shapes reality and how, conversely, one’s environments shape one’s perception.
"This picture is mostly about how you have to walk a long road, but you never can find what you want or what you are looking for. You are alone. When you see this picture, you can see that it’s the path to nowhere and that you can always find nothing, but only feel depressed by walking down that path. It reveals your darkest emotions--your sadness, your fears, your pain, your anger--even if you have never felt them before. It’s yet so beautiful and lovely but so sad."