Thursday, October 14, 2010

Abstract Documentary Photos? For Real?

The image I found most engaging out of the current exhibition at the Center For Creative Photography, The Edge of Vision: Abstraction in Contemporary Photography, was Charles Lindsay's Carbon (Untitled). It appears at first to be a landscape, perhaps a moonscape, complete with greyscale mountains and celestial bodies in the sky above what seems to be a horizon. Then, at second glance, it appears microscopic, maybe skin particles or dust. Then, at last, I'm left feeling confused, finding no reference to scale or location, but somehow feeling a kind of familiarity, as if the image is of something I see daily. 

The image is black and white, but what it lacks in color it makes up for in texture. I dont recall a swatch of solid white or black, or any space void of hairish specs producing a rough texture. I feel like I could go hiking on the hill-like forms, and stand in awe at what apear to be spires. I feel isolated looking at it.
If this image can be considered a documentary photograph, it can only be documenting the creation of itself. My first impression is that, like a lot of contemporary artists, Lindsay is more concerned with the process of creating images than he is with the meaning the end product conveys to it's viewers. It could also be that Lindsay is commenting on, perhaps documenting, the macro and micro scales that humans are exposed to in modern times.

As to the process used to create this image I know only that it required Carbon emulsion and glass transparencies, and I think that a lot of experimentation was necessary to perfect it. I certainly don't see myself applying such a technique anytime soon. 

Truthfully, I found most of the work in the exhibit a little bit too conceptual. Photography for me is about the end image and it's effect, both on the viewer and on the creator. If I have to understand and value the creator's intent before being able to understand and value the image, then I feel cheated, as though the creator could have taken the picture of anything and instilled the meaning after the fact; I feel like a child too easily fooled by cheap magic tricks. That being said, in multimedia presentations there is a place for such abstract images. In cases where the context is implied through text or narration at the same time that the images are being digested by the viewer, concept oriented, abstract images can be useful and powerful. But in this particular exhibit I feel most of the images could not stand on their own, without further explanation.

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