The creation of fire, the blender, and suburbia

The creation of fire -- by Joe Reifer
The creation of fire -- by Joe Reifer

The photo above is from a roll that just came back from the lab a few days ago -- I immediately knew it was on of my favorite Holga images of the year. I can't help it -- I delight in the "huh?" factor.

One connection I'm trying to forge between my daytime Holga work and night photography is the idea that a photograph can show a view of reality that includes some familiar reference points, but still leave room for mystery and interpretation. The known and unknown must be carefully balanced in order to produce a collision that creates the possibility of some feeling for the viewer.

To adapt and paraphrase Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi, a photograph that shows you something you already know doesn't teach you anything. A photograph that pulls you in with the known, but makes you think about the unknown opens up a new realm of possibilities.

An idea related to balancing the known and unknown, is creating a mixture of artistic influences and your own unique vision -- a theory that I call "the blender." In some ways the influences are the known, and your input and mixture create some percentage of unknown that hopefully blend into a special concoction. Sometimes the ingredients are readily discernible, other times a new flavor is born.

While I've been busy examining my own recipes here on this blog, a tremendous cookbook of post-modern photography just arrived -- Suburban Escape: The Art of California Sprawl. For those of you who enjoyed the night photography lexicon articles, this book is a must read. Many thanks to photographer Steve Walsh for the tip.

Ann Wolfe does a superb job weaving 50 artists into a treatise on the art of sprawl from the 1950's to present, with a strong focus on photography. The book is really an art history primer on one of the most interesting subjects of the last few decades.

The list of artists featured reads like a list of my favorites -- from Ed Ruscha to the photographers associated with New Topographics, Richard Misrach, Bill Owens, Henry Wessel -- the book doesn't just consider photography, but uses the suburban subject matter to weave in the work of painters such as Richard Diebenkorn, John Baldessari, Robert Bechtle, and David Hockney. Certainly a book to consider putting on your holiday wish list.

But what about night photography? There is only brief mention of any night time suburban work, with an image from Todd Hido's Outskirts series, and a moody Ruscha painting. Abandoned Places Night Photography (APNP) can certainly fit into this canon -- we're still waiting for someone in the art world to help champion the cause.