Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Basic Forms at the Getty

Two weekends ago the Mrs. and I took a visiting friend up to The Getty Center, which never fails to have great photography exhibitions. This time, it was Bernd and Hilla Becher's Basic Forms.

The two were prolific in the 60's, 70's and 80's, photographing industrial architecture in the US and Europe. Their style was well defined, always using the same 5x7 film, medium-contrast silver gelatin prints, and the subject always centered within the frame. However, rarely did one shot stand alone. Rather the two typically presented their work in groups, typologies of structures with similar functions (water towers, homes, blast furnaces, etc). These typologies were what defined them best.

This was really interesting to me, because I've been thinking a lot lately about how to express bigger ideas in photography. Typically the way I shoot is to get out and experience the world, and just bring my camera with me to capture whatever I find. But a lot of contemporary fine art photography on the other hand is heavily staged, with a lot of set-up, lighting, models and so forth. But what if, similar to approach taken by the Bechers, the solution to presenting a bigger idea is through a collection of "found objects," rather than trying to stage/compose the entire idea within one shot?


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