Aug 16, 2008

more on format, and being lazy

i'm back in Fairbanks, and adjusting to a temporary life as a bachelor. Dea is doing better, has moved into the comfortable Gift of Life House with her mom, and continuing to move forward. i wish i was there, but her voice on the phone is upbeat.

back to photography for now. my time in Minnesota wasn't all hospital time. i was able to make it up to Minneapolis to see the last day of Alec's show at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. Dea and i had planned to rent a car and drive up between treatments, but when she got sick I had forgotten about the show, but last Sunday she insisted i go. i took the selfish route and didn't need to be told twice.

i've been meaning to write about my experience there, but the words haven't come. but, Liz's post on format the other day got me thinking, and we exchanged some emails, as we often do about such things. so, i know i'm being supremely lazy here, but sometimes a conversation (even as one sided as it is below) will do...

"i was fortunate to be able to escape from the hospital and make it up to the Minneapolis Art Institute last Sunday for last the day of Alec's Sleeping show, as well as the Friedlander retrospective. if ever there were two shows that speak so directly to format, and personal vision, it's those two shows. both were fucking brilliant, let's just get that straight right away.

Alec's huge beautiful prints just tempt you to walk into them. they are lush and colorful, and made me feel like i was sitting outside reality while the real world resided on the walls. his photos are imposing. they demand respect, but with a whisper.

Friedlander's work is exhausting. like his retrospective book from his MoMA show, the shear volume of the work was impossible for me to digest. i witnessed things in photos that i've never seen before- in images that i've studied countless times. his prints are smallish, both his 35mm work and medium format, but his detail is frightening. he finds, and constructs, depth of layers in his images that boggles my mind.

as i walked back and forth between the two shows, i couldn't help but think about their process.

the acute focus of Alec's view camera revealed planes of focus that are unseen in his book, and the space he frames, and manipulates, is so deliberate and poetic. you can feel the slowness of his process, in his portraits especially.

Friedlander is just out there ripping along like a tornado it seems. devouring the landscape and reveling in his mobility and catlike reflexes. much of his work is all about movement and timing. that's not to say they are not careful images, exactly the opposite, but in so much of his work there is a feeling of a constant state of motion.

Alec and Friedlander have both carved out very distinct styles, and they utilize different tools to the same end. they exploit the strengths of their chosen mediums, and are deftly effective. it would be impossible for either Alec or Friedlander to duplicate what they've done with the other's medium. neither is inferior, and neither medium reigns supreme. just different tools used to the best of their ability by two genius photographers..."

© Alec Soth

© Lee Friedlander

1 comment:

Liz said...

I'm so glad you posted this, Ben. Your e-mail is one I won't be deleting. So well said, and a huge help to me amidst all the comments.

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