Simple Scene, Sensational Shot: Artistic Photography from Any Environment


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Each image or body synthesizes duration by retaining, anticipating and forgetting as it forms part of a larger differential field in which subject formation transpires. Photography underscores the ongoing series of contractions, excitations or disturbances of material reality, so aesthetics must account for what is expressed and differentiated through the event as it is replayed and identify the singular conditions under which something new is produced.

If reality were static, then capturing something new would be impossible, and photography would rightly be considered merely representational. Therefore, Deleuze's attack is not specifically on photography but on representational modes of thought that conflate the empirical, especially the visual that gives itself to sight as presentational immediacy, with absolute truth, ignoring the element of excess revealed through forces of sensation and intensities of affect.

Images, such as a medium shot of an oil pipeline slashing through an otherwise idyllic meadow, substitute expressive intensity of the non-human world for mere incongruity. His 'Oil' sequence also turns the sensation of violence into a didactic discourse on it by juxtaposing a human figure against a close-up of an overwhelming refinery filling the frame. Brecht writes, 'the situation is complicated by the fact that less than ever does the mere reflection of reality reveal anything about reality.

A photograph of the Krupp works or the A. Actual reality has slipped into the functional' reprinted in Benjamin , These images, photographed 'like someone fluently producing company reports' Dyer , 89 , mourn a world passed and seek aesthetic and moral redemption through reification of their subject instead of extolling a world in the making. He resorts to primary and secondary colors set aglow, creating visual cants Geoff Dyer calls 'as close to stadium rock as a landscape photographer is ever likely to get,' adding that while Burtynsky effectively employs bird's eye shots, 'a crane or helicopter might have been indispensable to the creation of some of Burtynsky's photographs but a crane can so easily become a kind of podium' Dyer , Deleuze quoting Bergson contends that 'the eye is in things, in luminous images in themselves.

According to these thinkers, an anthropomorphic and centered sphere of perception dissociates matter from its movement within an acentered variety of perception that posits images in themselves. Reality posits an overwhelming abundance of images from which the challenge is to extract feeling and sensation. The problem for photographers standing before a landscape is how to capture dynamic forces and express intensive potentials rather than static states of affairs, how to explore which infinitives will express the living present as counter-actualization of the event rather than how to represent its unseen causality or contrast it with an ideal world of eternal truths.

Edward Burtynsky, Homesteads 27 Works such as 'Alberta Oil Sands' or 'Homestead' Image 2 imply the presence of an extended world from which it screens the viewing subject while simultaneously rejecting that world. Alien structures, planes and colors absorb the landscape, obfuscating clear boundaries even as they conceive provisionally new ones.

Burtynsky photographs forces corroding, discharging, surging, melding, carving, wafting and swelling rather than an environment made inert. Deleuze and Guattari write, ' Affects are precisely these nonhuman becomings of man , just as percepts — including the town — are nonhuman landscapes of nature ' Deleuze and Guattari , Rather than drawing attention to pre-given utility and causal infrastructure, these images open up space, duration, subjectivity and individuation by challenging habitual modes of recognition and undermining symbolism.

They foreclose the possibility of being grasped from any one perspective in order to let the world happen. Milieu refers to landscape as context, to the gaps and intervals of experience, as well as to photography as a medium that emerges in the interstices between actions.

As Deleuze and Guattari write, '[O]ne has made a necessarily communicating world, because one has suppressed in oneself everything that prevents us from slipping between things and growing in the midst of things. One has combined "everything" le "tout" : the indefinite article, the infinitive-becoming, and the proper name to which one is reduced. Saturate, eliminate, put everything in' Deleuze and Guattari , Photographs take on an autonomous, material reality, which gives them an importance in themselves and a valuable means for addressing the perennial divide between realism and constructivism that has beset the history of photography.

Survey photographs did not occupy the same discursive space as pictorial photography or painting. For Krauss, such formal distinctions impose reductive attributes and reduce photography to abstract and artificial categories and modes of appreciation. She distinguishes the empirical from the rational in photography through the concepts of landscape and view. The former constitutes an objective representation of the world requiring mapped and grounded coordinates to make the space homogeneous and relatable as scientific data, while the latter forms an aesthetic act of visual creation in which the reality of space gives way to sensation.

She argues that the landscape photograph had to satisfy specific, historically situated requirements and formed a coherent discourse, distinct and often opposed to the aesthetic discourse of painting and the museum. The original operates as 'a model of the mysterious, silent beauty to which landscape photography had access during the early decades of the medium,' while the lithograph, ostensibly produced for scientific purposes, 'is an object of insistent visual banality.

The lithograph serves as part of an empirical discourse within geological sciences, while the photograph belongs to the discourse of the museum exhibition, spatially and critically related to 'the continuous surface of wall, a wall increasingly unstructured for any purpose other than the display of art' Krauss , Analytic perspective provides 'an image of geographic order' while exhibition 'represents the space of an autonomous Art and its idealized, specialized History, which is constituted by aesthetic discourse' Krauss , Photography's milieu is not beholden to pre-given categories, conceptual abstractions or visual boundaries.

The material support of photography has special access to the visual milieu of a singular space and time, the significance and singularity of which arises immanently from the photographic process rather than being imposed upon it by a transcendent system.

Akpan and Oduma 'PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHERS'

Indeed, Krauss echoes Walter Benjamin, who once wrote:. This immanent process arises when milieu is captured anonymously, without ascribed values, without difference imposed in terms of identity. Richard Misrach reinforces Krauss's argument by returning to Pyramid Lake, reinventing the event of O'Sullivan's work, and altering its sense Image 5. Misrach captures the intensive drama and theatricality inherent in still photography and makes the immovable move through a series of sensations that immerse the viewer.

The long exposure conveys a sensibility that obfuscates the distinction between what is given in nature and what is created by the camera.

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He creates a rarefied and vulnerable landscape irreducible to human demands and devoid of memory or innate historical significance, rather than imposing a teleological duty to the world. These pure expressions are manufactured insofar as photography extracts intensities, draws out connections and extends situations.

While photography is a generous medium amenable to the contingent and unintended, this attribute does not make photography passive, subjective or an indexical mirror of nature. Photographs dynamically create landscapes rather than recount or reorder an existent reality. They exist as something in themselves. Recognizing this ontological depth, many photographers in the late s deterritorialized and reinvigorated the relationship between space and photography by enlarging images and producing them for the wall.

As Michael Fried notes, the word tableau is significant because it denotes constructedness, the result of an intellectual and physical act of creation. Tableaus are neither representational nor purely aesthetic, but rather intentionally staged and meticulously manufactured expressions, every element of which is carefully selected for exact purposes.

Simple Scene Sensational Shot. Simon Bond by Simon Bond

Edward Burtynsky, Shipbreaking 27 Through a series of dozens of photographs, the artist documents the dismantling of decommissioned sea vessels during which their parts and materials are salvaged for recycling and reuse. Obsolete ships arrive at the beach — at Chittagong in this case — gear and equipment are removed, the ships are physically disassembled and deconstructed, and the steel is reconstituted as rebar. Within this non-modern space and without a pier, dry-dock or slip, the workers set the ships 50 kilometers from shore during high tide, drive them toward land at full speed, lodging them in the effluvial flats of the Ganges River.

The tide then recedes, affording access to the ships. Despite the suggestion of a linear causal disassembly process, the non-linear numbering of his images distances them from any rational sequencing Image 6. This photographic manifestation of any-space-whatever experiences two creative geneses: a universal, non-human one and a singular, subjective one. As the former, any-space-whatever submits movement without subject or object, lacks definite qualities and refuses critical interpretation in favor of indeterminacy and indiscernibility.

As the latter, any-space-whatever evinces ineffable spaces and situations to which we don't know how to react. Deleuze writes, 'And just as the image must attain the indefinite, while remaining completely determined, so space must always be an any-space-whatever, disused, unmodified, even though it is entirely determined geometrically' Deleuze , Burtynsky's use of a field camera and high-resolution development yields images as large as two meters wide that highlight a packed visual field containing details only visible at this scale.

The large format highlights empirical details, but it exceeds any reduction to presentational immediacy by staging confrontations in which neither subject nor object can be recognized or abstracted into representational narratives. The density of the scene reveals the power to tear images from spatio-temporal coordinates such that they operate independently of their milieu. In other words, production for the wall introduces an interval — an interstitial space and time separating perception, action and affect — that forestalls movement and makes us think.

Framing reminds us of the process of selection by which perception delimits the commotion of the environment. The frame acts as a provisional and artificial method of enclosure that defines the screen as a working area and reveals perceptual strategies for choosing parts from a durational whole. Burtynsky's distinct, aerial perspective includes and excludes, determines a field, as well as an out-of-field, in order to invent a composite flow of material images neither in us nor wholly outside of us. The photographer merges spatial and temporal complexity with technical details to create images that are simultaneously panoramic and telescopic.

The frame into which each image is situated forces entities of all sizes and shapes to occupy the same delimited spatio-temporal boundary. This destabilizing practice deterritorializes, rather than narrates, the image, preventing it from becoming absolutely codified. The contraction of percepts and affects within, as well as the extraction of qualities and material sensations from, the image reveals it to be moving as.

Edward Burtynsky, Shipbreaking 10 How can any-space-whatever be extracted from a state of things, from a determinate space? Deleuze elucidates three methods — color, shadow and lyrical abstraction — all of which are pronounced in Burtynsky's work. More than formal elements, strategies of contemplating difference in terms of identity, or bringing out socially repressed dynamics, these strategies operate as vectors and contingencies that coordinate linkages. The gradients of myriad earth tones obfuscate the boundaries between built and natural environments, animate and inanimate textures.

Sunlight intensifies the surface patina of the hulls, transforming them into warm oranges that dissolve into blacks. Pools of oil repeat metal patterns, amplifying their luster. This mise en abyme is repeated as the complete assembly of color — moving, oozing, listing, rusting, slicing and cracking — melds into an indistinct backdrop that dampens the images and indicates only a provisional individuation of elements within the composition Image 7. Shadow prevents form from fully developing in order to expand space and make its power infinite.

It destroys aesthetic and logical coherence by emphasizing the spectral allure of pure geometry, lines, planes and depth. Deleuze associates the darkness of shadows with a struggle of the spirit. Shadow, that is, 'endows things with a non-organic life in which they lose their individuality, and which potentialises space, whilst making it something unlimited' Deleuze , The vacuous space in which nothing can find its footing attains its own meaning by decontextualizing bodies and landscapes, necessitating a new topology of.

Edward Burtynsky, Shipbreaking 13 Both media are richer than quotidian perception and deterritorialize through decontextualization and reconnection. However, while cinema draws attention to the flows of matter and events, photography is not a movement-image in the strictest sense.

While cinema overcomes the immobility of human vision, photography repeats and counter-actualizes it. Photography does, on the other hand, emphasize, even more than cinema, the process of selection, the subtraction and contraction of what is seen from its spatial and temporal connections to everything else. Photography transforms everything in its purview into a living present that erases the illusion of time as a succession of images or instants. However, Antonioni generates his own cinematic strategies for inventing colors, obscuring contours and emptying environments.


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Vivid fire invades a dim sky, a green coat traverses a sooty site, pastels punctuate a backdrop of smog, and industrial forms tower over scenes to construct a vision of industrialized Ravenna concentrated into alluring percepts of modernization, characterized by Deleuze as 'dehumanized landscapes, of emptied spaces that might be seen as having absorbed characters and actions, retaining only a geophysical description, an abstract inventory of them' Deleuze , 5.

Antonioni's obsessive framing pre-exists anything inserted into it, and his de-peopled and empty shots highlight a process of waiting that is absent from photographs, for which no amount of waiting will alleviate the abundant tensions or enable elements in shadow to reach the light. This lack of montage obfuscates the scale of Burtynsky's settings, interrogates the adequacy of linear perspective, and avoids the tendency inherent in cinema to re-impose a narrative function.


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Simple Scene, Sensational Shot: Artistic Photography from Any Environment
Simple Scene, Sensational Shot: Artistic Photography from Any Environment
Simple Scene, Sensational Shot: Artistic Photography from Any Environment
Simple Scene, Sensational Shot: Artistic Photography from Any Environment
Simple Scene, Sensational Shot: Artistic Photography from Any Environment
Simple Scene, Sensational Shot: Artistic Photography from Any Environment
Simple Scene, Sensational Shot: Artistic Photography from Any Environment
Simple Scene, Sensational Shot: Artistic Photography from Any Environment

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