I was privileged to participate as a reviewer at the Medium Festival of Photography in late October in San Diego, California. The setting and photographers were exceptional in all aspects. The work ranged from traditional photography (discussed in this Commentary, Part 1) to creative and imaginative conceptual pieces (to be discussed in Part 2 of this Commentary). Space does not allow for commenting on all the great work seen, so I have selected a few artists to discuss that offered some interesting features that really attracted my attention. This is Part 1 of the discussion.
“Oceano Revisited” is a series of Black & White landscapes by Jim Banks. He quickly acknowledges that these sand dunes have been photographed many times in the past by the likes of Edward and Brett Weston, Ansel Adams, Willard Van Dyke and others. What appealed to me was abstraction in the images enhanced by details captured by the medium format digital process. He also took an extra step to have each print carefully matted that gave the images a very finished presentation. Banks has been photographing the landscape in black and white for more than 25 years. Born and raised in Colorado, he has been heavily influenced by the landscapes and natural environments of the western United States and now based in Northern California.
During the reviews, I met a young photographer, Horia Manolache, that truly challenged my perception of the homeless through portraiture and role playing in his series “The Prince and the Pauper”. Horia is originally from Romania, and moved to San Francisco, California in 2013. It is on the San Francisco streets that he talked to homeless people and created with his photography a window into who they were, or wanted to be. Horia interviewed them, and then, based on what he heard, acquired the clothing or costumes necessary to represent to the viewer that same person from a new perspective. The re-creation takes us and the subjects out of the street into a world to which we can relate. At the same time, seeing the before and after images, side-by-side, our own feeling, fears or prejudices are placed squarely before us to reconcile. Among the images, one is a homeless person who would like to reinvent themselves as a clown to bring a smile to those around him, and in another, to be come a scientist or researcher. I was struck by his inventiveness and ability to interact with these people on a very personal level.
I have been to Russia, but I did not see it the way Paula Riff captured it. Paula’s images are selected scenes, hand colored on post card sized stock. As she states in her Artist Statement: “Hand painting these images and making them small like postcards reminds me of turn of the century photographs and is also a nod to the pre-color photos and postcards”.
In part 2 of this Commentary, I’ll talk about artist who presented non-traditional images using performance, collage, multiple media and imaginary places in their photography.
All images are presented with the permission of the photographers.