Hart+Lëshkina – Command to Look for Near East (2015)
Such thoughts/feels about HART+LËSHKINA; I am at a loss as to how to even begin addressing their work.
I guess as good a starting point as any is their compelling compositions. If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m hardly a proponent of vertically oriented photographs/digital images. In fact, I’m rather inclined to dismiss the vast majority of such work as #skinnyframebullshit.
HART+LËSHKINA‘s are a sterling exemplar of how to do vertically oriented framing masterfully–emphasizing an up + down over the left + right image reading default. (Also: while their vertical images absolutely stand on their own, they tend–at least with this editorial–to pair two vertical compositions as diptychs. This is a prescient strategy as far as balancing between orientation shifts but it also works to create a flow not only between images but also across the entire body of work.)
They do an insane amount with very few elements. (If you’ve ever worked in an essentially empty houses like this, you’ll know setting up rigorously staged images like these borders on impossibility.)
There’s a studied patience to everything–the way the pattern of the light passing through the windows is broken by the kneeling figure and broken again by the reflection off the open window we can’t see that is echoed by the open window we can see.
But the thing I like most is that instead of falling into the dichotomy of nudity as signifier for sexual subtext vs nudity as a natural extension of self (and when intersecting with visual representation, a means of expression thereof), this duo takes what I always feel to be the far more interesting route of poo-pooing the dichotomy and presenting it as if it’s simultaneously both and neither.
I also can’t help but think about another conversation I had recently about the pros and cons of the mass proliferation of digital. On the one hand, yes, there is absolutely merit to the notion that digital is a democratizing force. These days the obstacles to accessing a decent camera are fewer than they’ve ever been–and that’s not to discount folks the world over who are still struggling to find clean water and enough to eat. (In other words, it isn’t all about who has a camera and who doesn’t, there are ultimately other more pressing considerations.)
Yet, I don’t believe that this democratization has led to the sort of expansion in vital, important work. In fact, I think that the only real expansion is in half-assed, arrogant or just straight up bad work. And one of the fall outs from this is the expansion of a curatorial class.
As a curator (ostensibly), I have pervasive concerns about curation due to the fact that a curator’s purpose is to sift through impossibly large information reserves and then pass along the best and brightest bits. No matter how much careful consideration on the part of the curator, the resulting decisions are informed by personal bias, prejudice, etc.
On it’s own, that’s a huge problem. But then consider the fact that it’s impossible to sift through all the information and therefore every curator has enormous blind spots. For example: how long have HART+LËSHKINA been around and despite the massive overlap in what their doing and my own personal photographic preoccupations and I’m only now learning about them. (I mean: yes, they work primarily in fashion/editorial, which is decidedly not my bag, baby; still, it makes me wonder sometimes if maybe curators create more problems than they resolve.