Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Eric Fredine - a follow up


Kent Wiley commenting on my Horizons photographs very kindly wrote : "...the formalism is stunning..."

The formal structure of my photographs is overt - obsessively so even. And I often worry about it becoming too 'cute' or contrived. That I might descend in to vacuous exercises in graphic design or emulate a second rate stock photographer.

But I also think its a fundamental part of what I do. The formal structure emphasizes that I am observing a scene from a precisely chosen place and time. This creates a transience that is part of the emotional impact. I am exploiting that unique characteristic of a photograph: it's relationship to a slice of the real world.

Compositional choices are inherently subjective and calculated - and are often manipulative. By making my choices overt and obvious I may actually be creating a more objective photograph. Which hopefully facilitates the viewer forming their own relationship with the scene.

At the same time, the formal structures are a reflection of the environments and provide a commentary on them. They are part of the narrative.

PS - Winter has aggressively asserted itself in Alberta: -25C, winds, snow. Strangely enough, this inspired me to get out and make some new photographs after a several months of inactivity.

FEATURED COMMENT: Kent Wiley wrote: "...yakety yak, yakety yak, yadda, yadda, yadda...but I'd like to hear more about the improv aspect of your photography.

4 Comments:

Anonymous aaron said...

After 5 minutes of staring at this photo (large and thumbnail), I realized I was not looking at the world's largest dresser drawer, but actually a building. Whoah.

I've always wanted to settle in the plains of Alberta (maybe outside Medicine Hat somewhere), start a sod farm and raise a couple NHL superstars. I thought winters were supposed to be mild in that region?

11/29/2006 03:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Kent Wiley said...

Eric & Mark, thanks for the new photo and some more words to help me feel better what's going on inside you while working.

I am involved w/ a photo project that involves a large series of architectural photos, and the decision was made at the very beginning that they would all be photographed in more or less the same manner: a straight ahead axial view of the primary facade. As you say, "By making my choices overt and obvious I may actually be creating a more objective photograph." I definately agree that the obvious formalist approach clearly advances an objectivist viewpoint. My concern, somewhat akin to yours, "That I might descend in to vacuous exercises in graphic design or emulate a second rate stock photographer." is that the similarity of design becomes visually deadening: the same old thing over and over and over.

Any thoughts on how to keep it fresh when you've got a schema that you often adhere to?

11/30/2006 04:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Eric Fredine said...

Aaron - Prairie winters are notoriously harsh - that's why all the Alberta hockey players tend to be 'tough guys' - hardy stock! Medicine Hat is far enough south that it's milder. Southern Saskatchewan is a magic place for me.

Kent - Blame the Bechers!

My short answer - it's something I stuggle with all the time. As such, I feel wholly unqualified to offer any advice on the matterI am 'sloppy' with the application of my schemas - the photographs are 'sort of' consistent but not ruthlessly so. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing - it's certainly not a purist Becher approach.

My longer answer - I have huge stacks of photographs that adhere to various schemas that are lifeless. It's definitely not enough for me just to apply whatever formal structures I'm currently enamoured with. I end up over-thinking the photographs.

I've provisionally concluded a couple of things. First, I still have to have an emotional response. That I need to concentrate on photographing the feeling. The form has to be secondary. And second, there has to be some aspect of spontenaity and transience. Which is almost a contradiction.

Despite the appearnce of calcuation my photographic approach is actually quite improvisational. It's more that I prefer to improvise within various constraints. So I'm not really an adherent of the 'classical' Becher approach.

As with most things, the right answer depends on the individual. I think some projects only make sense after a lot of images have been gathered and this can take years. I admire the courage and commitment of people who successfully carry these out.

The danger I see is that the whole idea of following a consistent, formal approach can be just another form of cliche to trap us. It's quite fashionable at the moment, but I think it's way overused and abused - and fear that I may be guilty of the sin.

And the objectivity is really an illusion. The photographer ends up making a huge number of essentially arbitrary choices - what could be more subjective?

There are no easy answers!

Cheers,
Eric

11/30/2006 03:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Kent Wiley said...

I definately blame it on the Bechers!

"The danger I see is that the whole idea of following a consistent, formal approach can be just another form of cliche to trap us."

Indeed. This is what I worry about with a current work in progress that will probably take me several years to complete. At the end will I look at it and say "Why did I bother? It's dead: it started dead." I know I need to self criticize/analyze what I am doing less, and try to get to the end to actually see what has come of the work that's been done.

You also say: "...I need to concentrate on photographing the feeling."

This sounds good. How do you photograph an emotion? I don't mean this as a critique, but am genuinely curious how you go about translating. As a person with a low emotional fire - though I can be stirred to rant on a diverse selection of topics which I know hardly anything about - I find much of my photography is performed on "autopilot." Which is not to say that there wasn't a spark that informed my decision to make a photograph - for after all, why create anything if there aren't sparks to generate some heat - but the sparks tend to be nearly infinitesimal in size. I guess this means that my photographs are very loud exclamations of what I "felt" before the camera was set up. As I examine what it is that causes me to pause and set up the camera, I think I may be more in the Stan Brakhage vein of image making: trying to capture on film what I saw for a fleeting moment in my visual processing system.

One last quote from you: "Despite the appearnce of calcuation my photographic approach is actually quite improvisational. It's more that I prefer to improvise within various constraints."

I understand about constraints. It's what projects, deadlines, and of all things repression, are about. (Donald Spoto once said in a class I had with him that Hitchcock thought that as artists we needed more repression.) I know we are using words to represent something that is a mediation of mental concepts, but I'd like to hear more about the improv aspect of your photography.

Thanks for sharing.

12/03/2006 12:24:00 AM  

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