1. What am I looking for in photography? Images that  penetrate the eye, engage the mind, and pierce the heart.  Mark L. Power

    Wikipedia: simulacra, from the Latin simulacrum  which means “likeness, similarity”… by the late 19th  century, simulacra had been regarded as an image without the substance or qualities of the original…


    All we want from art: reality, mysteriously deepened. David Shields

    Old posts from my former blog, the Salt Mine, can be found in the archive section, from 2008-10.

     
  2. 14:07

    Notes: 1

    Hyper-Reality

    Digital cameras have now progressed to the point where even pocket-size digital cameras have as much resolution as medium-format film and I’ll go so far as to say even as much as 4x5 inch negatives made with a view camera. Pixel-peepers will contest that assertion but as one who has made images with a variety of view cameras -a 19th century design basically featuring a box with film  at one end and a lens at the other, connected by a bellows - I feel confident in making it.

    Digital high resolution  has been around for a while but still fell short in prints much bigger than 20x24 until the advent of full-frame cameras a few years ago - ironically, cameras designed for photojournalists who rarely print their images. These cameras have  their limitations - they are heavy as bricks, rather brick-shaped in fact, complex to use. and expensive.  But recently, partly because of designs by innovative camera engineers from Olympus, Fuji and Sony,  the more mobile small high resolution cameras are being increasingly adopted by artists and “enthusiasts” as the industry likes to call anyone who is not a commercial photographer.

     
  3. TOP: view camera schematic; bottom: Sony full-frame digital camera

     
  4. 14:01

    Notes: 1

    Not only can you now make wall-sized prints with files from these machines, you can crop a portion of the picture and still end up with sharp images with good resolution. One result is the death of the ideal of the ‘pure image’ as expounded  by Edward Weston with his uncropped contact prints and continued by Henri Cartier-Bresson with his philosophy of the “decisive moment” - what you saw in the viewfinder at the instant of exposure was the ‘pure image’ and any post-development cropping was a degradation of that purity.  Consequently, all through the latter half of the 20th century, particularly on the East Coast,  American artists would often show the edges of the negative ( as a black line) around the images to assert their allegiance to this ideal.  Well, it’s not often you’ll see that black line in  the digital world and if you do, it’s there as a graphic frame, nothing more.

     
  5. top: crops from a Sony full-frame digital file. Bottom: uncropped Kate Moss by Albert Watson

     
  6. 13:56

    Notes: 1

    Photographic stances frequently begin as ideology and then end up as style, neither better or worse than those which preceded it. Sometimes they are rediscovered; some of the digital images I see in galleries could have originated in the Edwardian days of Pictorialism except they lack the esthetic ideals that energized the artists of Bloomsbury.  

    In these digital times  a style  of image-making has emerged which might be called hyper-reality, a semiotic term defined as  “ as a condition in which what is real and what is fiction are seamlessly blended together so that there is no clear distinction between where one ends and the other begins.”

     
  7. Both:  Gianmaria Veronese; bottom: Ty Domin

     
  8. Hyper-reality may not be a movement yet but it’s easy to recognize: it features razzle-dazzle high resolution images with exaggerated colors often with science-fiction overtones.   More often than not, the subject matter is a landscape or a cityscape. You might say this style of visual exaggeration has many precedents: Van Gogh’s inflamed colors, psychedelic art of the 70s, films like “Bladerunner”, the theatrical constructs of artists like Gregory Crewdson, the graphics of video games, and probably the garish palette of HD TV also.

     
  9. top to bottom: Vincent Van Gogh; still from ‘Bladerunner’; Gregory Crewdson; HD TV

     
  10. One of the first examples of hyper-reality I came across were the remarkable portraits by Martin Schoeller of famous people.  I still think they are among the best of the genre because the extreme high resolution of the images brings out aspects that I might not have seen otherwise. Faces become topography, sort of like the NASA images beamed back from the surface of planets.

     
  11. Christopher Walken by Martin Schoeller

    Christopher Walken by Martin Schoeller

     
  12. 13:34

    Notes: 2

    You might call hyper-real pictures photo-illustrations because  it seems another touch with Photoshop and the images might forever flee the realm of photography and become drawings. 

    It is an artificial look that brings into question that thorny issue, what is left of ‘truth’ in photography? It is probably too soon to understand how digital photography has impacted photography’s role as a ‘witness” to history but judging from the level of debate it is having a profound effect. I would join the debate but I have no idea of how it will all shake out. For now I will content myself with serving as a messenger and present here a few examples of the new reality. You can find many more on Facebook and the Internet.

     
  13. top, Ken Wyner; bottom: Xavier Nuez

     
  14. 10:50 5th Jan 2014

    Notes: 1

    A Not Unusual Coincidence

    I know William Eggleston’s work fairly well but was unaware he had turned his camera skyward until a recent Eggleston show at the Gagosian  Gallery in New York highlighted a 1978 sky series, ” At Zenith”.

    Now you would be hard pressed to find a photographer who hasn’t photographed clouds at one time or another both before and after Steiglitz’ famous series “Music – A Sequence of Ten Cloud Photographs” which set the standard in 1922. Nevertheless, I was struck by the similarity between what Eggleston saw in 1978 and I saw in 2013. Should I point out I made my cloud picture months before I came across the Eggleston image?

    Maybe the moral is that influence is not just a matter of seeing but also a matter of thinking and feeling and if that’s the case chronology is not all that important.

     
  15. top: Wllliam Eggleston, 1978

    bottom: Mark L. Power, 2013