Sunday, May 20, 2012

"The 'Quiet' Photographer"

I recently finished The Pleasures of Good Photographs by Gerry Badger after having checked it out from the library and it residing on my kitchen table for 364 days. There are many essays that caught my attention but "The 'Quiet' Photographer" was compelling enough for a blog post. The three quotes below are from Badger.

"Like anyone else wrestling with this tricky medium, the quiet photographer is totally assured of the fact that a 'simple,' 'straightforward' act of recording is anything but. The quiet photographer, however, will not draw undue attention to that process, nor, for that matter, to the process of apprehending the resultant image by the viewer. The goal of the quiet photographer is an elusive one, the illusion of transparency, but not a dumb or mute transparency. Quiet photographs do not lack a voice, but that voice is always calm, measured, appropriate, reasonable - even when at the service of strongly held political opinion."

"The quiet photograph is not necessarily a cool photograph, though its warmth may take a little time to emerge."

"... quiet photographs also require work on the part of the viewers in order that their subtleties might be fully appreciated. The quiet photograph is neither document nor aesthetic object nor simulacrum nor fictional tale, but a combination of all four, a different combination in the hands of every individual photographer."

The first person whose photographs I thought of when reading the essay was that of Collin Avery. 

Collin Avery, 13 Holes and a Wire

Collin Avery, Bathtub

Collin Avery, Wall Illusion

From Actual Colors May Vary: "My photographs are about a particular process of observation which I acquired during adolescence. As a child, I was afraid of confrontation, so as a way to escape difficult mental and physical situations I had designated hiding zones located throughout the house and yard where I could disappear. During these times of self introspection, I became fixated on certain physical details of the space. The subtle nuances and intimate moments of silence were mine alone. It is this way of seeing which has influenced my personal photographic practice. Observation has become my new way of escaping. My images are not about finding the extraordinary in the everyday, but instead are about finding the everyday extraordinary."

Orit Raff's White Series also exudes elements of "quietness." From the Julie Saul Gallery: "Raff created her earliest mature work, the White series (1997-1999), primarily within the domestic confines of the home. She intensified neutral objects such as a toilet bowl, bathroom drain, bed, bar of soap, and a mirror, by introducing clues about the body that occupies these spaces."

Orit Raff, Untitled (Glass on Paper Towel), 1997

Orit Raff, Untitled (Soap), 1997

Orit Raff, Untitled (Bed), 1997

Perhaps I am interested in this topic because I very rarely (if ever) make a photograph that Badger would deem "quiet." For one, quietness and observation go hand in hand. Silence and the manipulation of the subject through arrangement or creating something just to be photographed are not synonymous. I will never be a quiet photographer but I welcome the sense of calm found in the work of Avery and Raff. 


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