My better half is an artist. After a successful career in information technology she retired, and promptly announced that she was going back to school—to art school, that is.
Her life change has gone well, and it has forced a change for me. Like a fish out of water, I now find myself going to art exhibition openings, something that wasn’t previously in my diary entries.
So, what to do when I find myself at an exhibition? Well, I play my own internal game and challenge myself to find three art works that I like, and then try to understand why I like them. Analytical, yes; maybe overly so.
Monochrome—what’s old is new again.
It’s been noticeable that there has been a renewed interest in monochrome photography, especially with the recent introduction of the monochrome versions the Leica M10 and Q2. Some, even, conjecture about whether Fuji will perhaps bring out their own monochrome camera. It was with this in mind that I approached a recent photo exhibition at our local Art Gallery of New South Wales.
The exhibition, titled Shadow Catchers, presented photographs from the gallery’s own collection, concentrating on a technical and artistic approach to imaginative subject matter and composition, as follows
Three images. Personal choices.
My objective, once again, was to find three images that I really liked. They would be ones taken last century, rather than being captured on a new super duper monochrome sensor. Good fun to do, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Number three of my favourites selection was from an untitled image taken around 1930 by a French photographer, Philberte de Flaugergues. The photograph was a gift to the gallery by Gael Newton, the foundation curator of photography. The simplicity of the image conveys a soft gentleness, a depth of emotion, and more basically a great composition and perspective with the mirror.
Number two on my list was a more recent image by Elliott Erwitt, a French American photographer of high repute. Many Macfilos readers will be familiar with his work—if you aren’t then search him out on the ‘net.
The image below doesn’t seem to make it into lists of his iconic photographs, but to me it is riveting. I can’t actually say that I “like” the image. I find it quite disturbing. Mesmerising, yet hard to look at it for more than a few seconds before looking away. Better half has been drumming into me that good art can sometimes be that which makes the viewer uncomfortable. Well, this image certainly does so, for me at least. I continue to wish that it was the result of split-second street photography, but I suspect not—carefully composed and uncomfortably brilliant.
My favourite image is one which some Leica types might be familiar with. A very careful technical setup, with a geometrical precision that appeals to my hard-wired brain. I’ll let the gallery’s description describe it, better than I can, as follows
And here is the photograph. I love it.
Well, those are my three favourites from that exhibition. I’d encourage us all go to as many art exhibitions as possible. Like me, be a fish out of water, always try to find three examples that you like, and think about why you like them. In fact, you can even do it here on Macfilos with the articles and associated images that our editor Mike prepares for us—perhaps it makes him a curator as well as an editor.
Now, here at home as I prepare this text, I look at the wall of my study and see a monochrome that was produced by Dianne Gerlach (aka my better half). Not a photograph, but a large charcoal drawing. She won a prize with this one a decade ago. I collared it for my study, giving it the title “2009 Global Financial Crisis”. But, snapping back to present reality, I’m sitting here thinking that it could be re-titled “2020 Covid Pandemic”. Ah, another monochrome that strikes a chord.
All images caught with an unobtrusive little Sony RX100, except the last one, resulting from a Leica X1. All hand held, indoors, available light.
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