I’ve been asked this week to pick three images that involve multiple interpretations of the world and a ‘constructed approach’ that interest me.
The first is a very simple image by Nadav Kander, ‘Dinah Gould’, part of the ‘Torchbearers’ section which were shown in the ‘Road to 2012’ exhibition at the National Gallery, London during 2011. By showing one unexpected action throws into question exactly what is being portrayed. On one hand we have the well-executed image of a an elderly lady in a summer dress holding a crumpled tissue, on the other hand her shoes are facing down and she appears to be in the act of jumping vertically, a faint shadow appearing to add collaboration to this incongruous act. The whole series of eight are similar, while his subjects vary, all appear to be in the same act of jumping. It’s odd and does show the tension that can be added to an image by including something that is unexpected and inconsistent with your first look at the image.
This relates to my own practice as it shows that a strong thread can be added to what would otherwise be unrelated images by having them perform a similar, unexpected, action or I guess by all of them handling an object that they might not otherwise be associated with.
The second image, ‘Kana and Edouard, Paris, 2012’ was taken by Mami Kiyoshi as part of a fifteen year long project of couples in Japan and France; ‘New Reading Portraits’. Kiyoshi finds her subjects by placing adverts on posters and online. She then chats to them about their lives, their passions and their homes before taking their portrait. Her images are contrived to show something about the objects the couple possess, and often something about the personality of one or both of those taking part. They are produced in very rich vibrant colours, and I’m sure are best seen as a large print showing as much of the image detail as possible. As might be expected from such long project her website shows many more images from this project, it wasn’t easy to decide which single image to show.
I feel this could sort of approach could relate to my own project, both in terms of having a particular ‘look’ on the final printed image, to the use of their objects, or object, to give an extra dimension.
The third image is the one I feel the most magical. Produced by the Nederlander, Ruud van Empel ‘world 7’ is one of a large series of images entitles ‘World’. Every image is highly constructed, I’ve suggest following the provided link to his gallery as I feel it is best to view the set as a group. There is a central theme and style that connects all of this series. While I feel the one I’ve picked has particular impact from the way the boys round head, with insect on top, fills the centre of the image they all have exceptional ‘unrealness’ and I feel happier to talk about the group as a series rather than a single image.
Van Empel calls these image productions ‘digital collages’. A key element is that none of these faces are whole. Van Empel shoots a variety of young models, and then separates their facial elements to re-construct a hybrid photoshopped face. He does this to has a very high standard of photorealism and it is far from obvious that this has taken place. In this series Van Empel is portraying young , very black, children in a very tropical, incredibly green, environment. Often partly submerged in a pool of water surrounded by floating lilies and colourful flowers and small insects. When not semi-submerged the boys are generally wearing shorts while the small girls are in a smart summer dress. It’s all very odd, and with the look of innocence attached to their expression and age, a little disturbing, dressed as they are in a very Western attire.
Then you have the apparently clean and bright look of the vegetation, and a composition that has subtle hints of menace. Again this vegetation is from individual fine leaves, perfect ripples, clean branches, all photoshopped incredibly cleverly together. A lot of effort, with photography playing only a minor role, but a very powerful image results. It is perhaps ‘magical realism’ at it’s best.
There are so many threads running though these images it’s difficult to know where to start. But the strongest common feature is that the faces don’t seem quite right. The human brain has evolved to be very acute to facial detail and expression. We do not expect to see all of the children with a near identical expression and poise. Like the identical children portrayed in the 1960 film Village of the Damned (based on John Wyndam’s book ‘The Midwich Cuckoos’) there is something very troubling about the portrayed perfection. In John Wynham’s tale the children concerned have none of the genetic characteristics of their parents, for different reasons Van Empel has produced a similar look.
In this case I do find it hard to relate this to my own work. Van Empel’s approach is in many ways the antithesis of my goal. I’m wanting to portray the reality of my subject’s work environment and something of their personality.
Nadav Kander website, last accessed 5th April, 2018; see https://www.nadavkander.com/portraits
Mami Koyoshi Facebook page last accessed 5th April, 2018; see https://www.facebook.com/MamiKiyoshiArtist
Ruud Van Empel website, last accessed 5th April, 2018; see https://ruudvanempel.nl/