Hannes Caspar* (2013)

I’m always yammering on about the role color plays in lens based image making.

And I’m nowhere near a place where I can coherently articulate my thoughts on the subject but in general when we’re talking about fine art photography and the question of the purpose of color, the conversation will (rightly, in my mind) revolve around masters such as: William Eggleston, Harry Gruyaert, Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld and Jeff Wall.

If we are to point to unifying themes with regard to the work of these artists and what it tells us about the nature of color in image making, I think there are two principles that bear mentioning:

  1. Color in a fine art image is never the point of the image but is indispensible in rendering the point of the image with unequivocal clarity.
  2. A heightened sensitivity to the interplay between conceptual foundations of the work, composition and form.

A better way of putting it would the pictures would absolutely work whether they were in color or black and white but the color is what ‘activates’ them.

There aren’t many people producing work today that I feel are making work that adheres to these criteria. (I’ll consider @thebodyasconduit as an exception, to this point.)

Conversely, there are artists doing visionary things with color that insist upon color as a the singular unifying point. (In other words: the desaturated work would realize a diminished impact.)

For example: @pru-e‘s work would be almost banal sans color. And although she doesn’t fit the above formula for color in fine art image making, she’s right up there with Eggleston when it comes to incomparably brilliant practitioners of color work.

But as much as I dig Ms. Stent’s work, her strobe heavy, co-option of a glossy fashion aesthetic, isn’t something that I can apply to my own work.

Hannes Caspar–on the other hand–is more applicable. And yes, I think he absolutely needs to be mentioned when the discussion turns to photographers doing radical things with color in their work.

In the case of the above, you have the vivid red, with no bleed whatsoever. (This effect is absolutely assisted by the off-blue color of the painted, scuff mottled floor planks. There’s an intense dynamic range but the mid-tones are almost entirely reserved for the skin and the wall/radiator in the background. Given such dynamic range, the skin tone is exquisitely perfect in its rendering.

In tone and form, this image actually reminds me of an image by the enigmatic Pole STOTYM.

There’s the accepted wisdom that B&W images, through their abstraction, allow us to bear witness to the foreign in the familiar. The historical struggle of color lens based images makers–if you accept my presumptions–is to render the mundane, somehow both mundane and transcendent at the same moment.

It feels like both Stent and Caspar are in their respective ways, calling bullshit on the notion that it has to be both or neither.

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