Peter Marlow – SPAIN. Barcelona (1993)

Henceforth, when someone asks me to define ‘fine art photography’, I’m going to point them in Marlow’s direction.

See: unlike the photo above, most of his work is in color. His Magnum portfolio features the kind of work that when you’ve been looking at images for a while you realize embodies painstaking discipline in service of making frames appear ‘effortless’ or ‘incidentally perfect’; or, a better way to say it might be to suggest that the photographer goes to absurd lengths to imbue the work with a seeing-the-scene-as-if-for-the-first-time-even-though-it-was-clearly-studied-at-great-length.

And as much as I appreciate those types of compositions–hell, Stephen Shore is one of my favorite photographers–Marlow’s color work comes across as employing color as a means of flirting with the every day nature of perceiving the world in color while simultaneously seeking to draw attention to the foriegn in the familiar.

Ultimately, I think Marlow makes photographs in color more than color photographs as exploration of the role color plays in image making. Saying it that way makes it sound like a criticism and it is–but also it isn’t. I think I’d just be able to chalk it up to a lack of interest in considering the nature and purpose of color in fine art photography… except that this image (although certainly less formal and rigorously observed) embodies a giddy melancholia. There’s loneliness, lust, longing, attraction, separation–pathos; and knowing that this sort of deeply felt experience could’ve been distilled into the more formal work but appears not to have been strikes me as a great loss.

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