Been looking through a book of old Francesco Scavullo photos; Scavullo: Francesco Scavullo Photographs 1948-1984. I was interested in how he got a high contrast look with single source flat lighting.
I had the idea, I think from a professor at my first university, that magazine fashion was the ‘bleeding edge’ of mainstream photography. (just where is that on the ‘hip’ scale?) Anyway I would flip through Harpers and Vanity Fair, Vouge and Cosmo. Rarely did I find anything I would use in my own work, but it is a good exercise in ‘eye’. When I was doing professional photography, in the late 70’s – early 80’s, I was looking for a long tonal range lower contrast in my work. Probably I imagined myself an Ansel Adams for dancers and actors.
Scavullo’s portraits were also an eye exercise. Here was a person, someone you likely would never meet, and cropped so tightly in an environment of seamless, yet Scavullo got you (me anyway) to think you knew something about this person from looking at this photo. For me this is where the art is in his work. He was communicating something, whether it was true was irrelevant, about this person.
It is the feeling of connection, communication between the veiwer and the work, that is the defining factor in art. Next time you’re at the gallery or museum go past the ‘I like it / don’t like it’ and ask ‘what is the piece saying to me’, if anything. What can I contribute to the piece. You’re not looking to figure out ‘what the artist is trying to say’. This is just a simple exercise in ‘what is this piece saying to ME’.
I want to have figured out how to get images up in this thing real soon now. So if I’m not in the server closet I’ll be at the drawing table, till next time.