Friday, September 19

"Brown and yellow, no buttons no shoes..."

In February of this year, I began shooting on a project (more of an exercise) that had me outside the bounds of what I was used to, or known for. I wasn't entirely sure of what I was trying to do, but I had an idea that focussed on women I knew, and I was running with it. I realised later the aesthetic I was in search of had a lot to do with Edward Hopper's work, as described here by Carol Troyen in her essay Hopper's Women:

"A succession of representations of contemplative women, often nude or partly dressed, who occupy enclosed spaces alone... [the paintings] bring together isolation, sensuality and unease. Some explore the pathos of solitude literally laid bare."

This image came about by chance; a light test in a room, while the model sat waiting. For all the composition, each shot was just part of a series balancing the window light...

The model is used to me doing my own thing while she does hers... it is her asleep in the Caravaggio image, as "the Virgin". Incidentally, the cropped print in the background, also of the Virgin Mary, is by Sanzio Raffaello. It can be tricky to recognise without the two iconic genii at the foot of the painting, that have since become pop culture images all on their own. The painting is also mentioned in Dostoevsky's Demons, "where Stepan Trofimovitch is unable to explain the profundity he sees in the painting." Neither am I. It took Zander Blom to recognise it from the photograph, emailing me the details along with the line, "the man painted a shit load of Madonna and child stuff."

It was also Zander that pointed out the almost-imbalance of the feet in my own image (an odd detail for him, given my recent nod towards particular formalism) that brought to mind Jon Thompson's description of Hopper's Hotel Room. Sometimes, it seems that photography unconsciously emulates paintings that emulate photography itself.

"There is nothing unexpected or out of place in the disposition of forms within the space of the canvas, expect perhaps for the slightly awkward cropping of the woman's feet - a device that seems to belong more to photography, or even to the cinema, than painting."

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