Monday, December 11, 2006

Toby Lloyd-Jones ~ Downtown #3


I first encountered Toby Lloyd-Jones at Eolake Stobblehouse Blog.

On a post named "Doors of Heaven" - a photograph of a set of double wooden vertical slat doors, Eolake indulged in what he labeled, "my high-wire analysis of my pictures". He wrote, "This picture is of heaven's gates. The golden colors give promise of great spiritual riches ahead. The many verticals symbolize the ascension of humanity and of the individual, or "you" if you will. The shadow of the sign on the right shows the fading of language and symbols as being important in human life, transcending mere mind and entering spiritual realms. The locks represent the barriers in our minds and our beliefs which each person has the key to if he chooses".

Toby left a comment under the name "punctum", which immediately caught my eye - punctum is from the twin concepts of studium and punctum: studium denoting the cultural, linguistic, and political interpretation of a photograph, punctum denoting the wounding, personally touching detail which establishes a direct relationship with the object or person within it ~ from Camera Lucida, a book on photography published in 1980 by the French literary critic Roland Barthes. A book that is considered one of the most important early academic books of criticism and theorization on photography.

In any event, Toby's response was simple and direct - "No...it is a door." I couldn't have stated it better myself.

As you may noticed with my photographs, I am definitely not a fan of descriptive - in practice, most often fanciful and rather loopy- titles for photographs. As a judge in several international photo competitions, I have seen my fair share, and more, of them. My dislike of them is twofold:

1. As mentioned, they are most often sappy and/or loopy.

2. By deliberate intention or not, they tend to direct the observer of a photograph down a specific train of interpretive/experiential thought and I perfer a more wide open field with my equivalency. Without in any way denying photography's intrinsic relationship with the referent (the object of its gaze) and the literal/real, it has been stated that ...art has no intrinsic meaning. This is its mystery and hence, its power. Art is free. It stimulates the viewer to insert their own meaning, their own value.

It should be noted that I do appreciate reading about a photographer's motivations/inspirations in an Artist's Statement (as long as it's not so full of artspeak and theory-babel as to be undecipherable).

I have also noticed a general tendency that goes hand-in-hand with loopy/sappy titles - the titles seem to be an attempt (intentional or not) to make up for the fact that, although the photograph in question may have lots of studium, it lacks, to my eye and sensibility, a strong punctum.

All of that said, I really like Toby's photography (and his "titles"). FYI, Toby studied conceptual art and painting at Goldsmiths College, London University, from 1976-1979. Later he changed direction, and in 1992 gained a Ph.D in experimental psychology from Birkbeck College, London University. He is currently a reader (whatever that is) in cognitive psychology at Kent University, in the south-east of England. His academic research focuses on vision and memory.

My bet is he might have some interesting stuff to say about photography. Here's hoping he does (on The Landscapist).


FEATURED COMMENT: Steve Durbin wrote:"My first question on this one is based on my immediate (intuitive, system 1) reaction, before I even carefully looked at the content. I immediately thought of paintings by Hopper and de Chirico that have a similar overall look. I'm wondering to what extent that was intentional. It certainly affects my understanding of the photograph either way...I can't turn off the cultural background."

publishers comment: I was struck immediately by visions of Hopper with this photograph (and others - Downtown #6, #7, #1) and was tempted to write about Chiaroscuro - the arrangement of light and dark elements in a pictorial work of art - but Toby only seems to grind on this axe only lightly in his greater body of work.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Steve Durbin said...

This picture is exquisite, and from a quick glance I can see I'll have to spend more time getting to know Toby's work. Especially as I share the interest in vision and cognitive psychology.

My first question on this one is based on my immediate (intuitive, system 1) reaction, before I even carefully looked at the content. I immediately thought of paintings by Hopper and de Chirico that have a similar overall look. I'm wondering to what extent that was intentional. It certainly affects my understanding of the photograph either way. In this case, I take the generic title as an suggestion to confine interpretation to considering this individual image or others in the same set. Fair enough, but I can't turn off the cultural background.

12/11/2006 07:06:00 PM  
Blogger punctum said...

First of all, thank you Mark for featuring a photograph of mine on your blog, and for your comments. I'm very pleased and flattered.

I'm not sure that I 'have some interesting stuff to say about photography'. But I will try and contribute where I can.

Thank you too for your comments, Steve. I've been a huge fan of De Chirico and Hopper, ever since I first encountered them back at art school in the 70's. It is nothing intentional, but one's influences just 'come through'. There are many, many other influences, both painters and photographers. Photographers like Walker Evans and Lewis Baltz, and their contemporaries. Also photographers that I have got to know on irisf64.com.

All I hope is that one day I establish my own voice. I'm getting there, but I think there is a long way to go yet...

Best,
Toby

12/11/2006 07:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Steve Durbin said...

Well, that's a neverending journey, but I'd say you already have a distinctive voice. At least, to my eye your portfolios look very consistent and have a character I don't find in most work in the urban landscape category. And I've looked at a fair amount, since I'd like to learn to do similar things. I do love the shadows, but in general it's the surgical precision in carving out balanced and varying compositions that does me in. Plus the occasional small color notes that seem just right.

12/12/2006 12:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Michelle Parent said...

Toby,
I am not sure what to say here, except that I love the shadows and light. I love that both are treated as equal objects of delight and shape here along with the "physical" objects of buildings and poles. Wonderful!

12/12/2006 03:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your kind comments Michelle :)

12/14/2006 07:07:00 PM  

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