Sunday, February 22, 2009

Peter Culley, Vancouver Tree, 2009

Lee Bacchus, Bear Enclosure, Stanley Park, 2006

John Latta, Unseasonably, 2008

Adam Harrison, Reflection, 2009

Four photographs posted on the Internet, late 2008- early 2009. As far as I know, two are digital originals (Tree; Unseasonably) and two are reproductions of paper prints (Bear; Reflection). One characteristic of photography is the ease with which some photographs' reproductions can stand in for the photographs themselves. Eg., the Charles Sheeler exhibition I saw at the Met in 2003, whose catalog reproductions exactly match the size and tonal qualities of the framed originals. These descriptions -- "originals"; "reproductions" -- aren't meant to be pejorative. What interests me vis-a-vis digital technology and photography is how digital technology simultaneously facilitates the wide distribution of pictures like Reflection and Bear, which physically exist at a particular point and place in time, with images like Tree and Unseasonably, which exist, like museum catalog reproductions, at many points in time and places simultaneously. Simultaneity isn't something new to photography; it is a very old quality, maybe one intrinsic to the medium, that has been brought forward into sharp relief by Flickr, personal websites, blogs & etc.

I like these pictures; what catches my attention, before questions of "aesthetic quality," is how each photographer addresses the configuration of space and light before them. Note the shadow on the grass in Peter Culley's picture; how it mimics, in two dimensions, the shape of the fully rounded limb above it. Or Bacchus' piled-up concrete blocks, which protrude up and out of space, like some weird Constructivist sculpture. Or Latta's silent cascade of scarlet leaves; his suggestion, like Cezanne, of a bulging organic presence just behind the picture plane. Or Harrison's conjunction of the mouldy bled-out edges of the unfolded cardboard cartons covering with the window with the more regularized "scaffolding" of the gaps between the cartons. Considerations like these, in my judgment, overwhelm labels like "original" and "reproduction"; photography has room for both.

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