21 October 2103
Let me know which you prefer and why.
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One of my favorite photographic themes is bridges. I scout them here and there and anywhere. The serendipitous is the most joyful. Even the simplest of designs can entice my visual sensibilities.
On a recent overcast day I was driving in the back country, headed toward Downingtown, Pennsylvania. As I maneuvered a sharp turn, a bridge filled my sight line. The light rain turned to mist, and I was forced to park and savor the view.
The scene was framed by vintage nostalgia–filled with the monochrome of pre-technicolor film. While the visual acuity was reduced, my senses were spiked by the combination of elements before me. It had lush contrast and gradation.
Instantly, I was reminded of a recent lecture about the British photographer Bill Brandt. Sarah Hermanson Meister, Curator in the Department of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York, delivered a punchy talk at the annual art history lecture series at the University of Delaware. Much of the content came from the exhibition, which she curated for the museum titled “Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light,” and was held March 6–August 12, 2013 (view full description of the show here). On a Website about Brandt you can learn more about him as an artist. Click here.
Meister engaged the audience with Brandt’s photographs that easily shored her analysis of his startling ability to see the world. He was one of England’s greatest twentieth-century photographers, and previously underrated to be sure. He focused on social documentary, landscapes, nudes, and portraiture, and his work shows an affinity for modernism, which he helped introduce.
“Shadow and Light” is an apt title for this retrospective that displayed over 200 photographs and snapshots. Each showed his command of monochrome–the dark and the light, the subtle and blatant. But his attention to the photographic process and composition were only part of his genius.
Brandt would have loved phoneography. His editing was relentless, and three-quarters of his prints were retouched either in or outside the darkroom. He would have adored the range of apps available to manipulate stilled images. He was known for cropping his subjects up close and then even closer.
Brandt is lesser known than his colleagues, which surprises me. I have become fascinated by his vision–his need to comprehend the visual arena. He illuminated and painted the world through an ongoing process of seeing–a seeing that the retrospective help to expose.
Tip of the Week: Black-and-white photography is very much about shadow and light. Time and innovative technology have not altered that fact. For those of us who did not see Brandt’s work at MOMA, Meister’s book, Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light, is the next best way to dive into his photography. To purchase it, you can browse through various options on Amazon by clicking here. A review of the book can be found here. Please take the opportunity to be astounded by his artistic eye.
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Note: As always I welcome any comment about this post or any part of my blog. Here’s a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming Phoneography Challenges:
1st Monday: Nature
2nd Monday: Macro
3rd Monday: Black and White
4th and 5th Mondays: Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel).