Tag Archives: Photography

A Geometry of Chaos

Athens is a funny place, architecturally speaking. In the U.S., the boom in funding of development projects, particularly in the area of public works, in the 1960s and 1970s in such places as Massachusetts, led to the blooming of Brutalist Modernism in government buildings and educational facilities (see: the University of Massachusetts, especially UMass Amherst and UMass Dartmouth).

Exposed, indecent concrete

Athens had a similar boom in the 60s, but it didn’t result in the now-passé futurism of daringly uninterrupted planes of concrete (the béton brut, of Brutalism), it just resulted in empty spots of nothing where then-new multistory apartment buildings (πολυκατοικίες) randomly abut the empty air of empty lots and parking lots and the undeveloped airspace above older buildings.

Athens is a place of layered history, each year accumulates dirt and dust and the bottoms of the buildings become lower and lower, so that the late 19th century sits a little below the modern era, the Byzantine structures sit a foot or two below the current ground level, the classical period some five to ten feet below the surface. And looking upwards, the same thing is mirrored into space, with the buildings getting taller, and filling in what space they can, where physics and building permits allow.

A mess of planes and angles

It’s like the city got so excited about the opportunity to grow and develop that it overtook itself, tripping and flailing as it expanded. But the walls mirror the streets in meandering and intersecting one another until they give life to new, exciting shapes and experiences.

Having grown up familiar with the New England cities whose roads were laid down on cowpaths, summers in Athens still felt like home, with streets that run in parallel, except where they intersect. It’s got none of New York City’s careful, methodical approach to wayfinding and orientation.

When the opportunity arises to see Athens from above, such as from the Acropolis or some other height (after all, it has seven hills, as all proper cities should), little concrete blocks fill your vision in all directions like a rolling, constructed, pillared ocean, frozen for a split second in its heaving.

Rendering successful… Please enjoy Athens-2020.exp

Now Athens is displaying more modern tendencies, able to reflect current trends in architecture, all glass and polished stone, reflecting itself and its surrounding back and back until passers by are dizzied by the sun hitting back into their eyes.

But even here, the overwhelming intersection of planes is retained, though more restrained and deliberate, the sudden shock of intersecting lines is still given life here.

Gone Home: the return to photography

Circumstance has returned me to a favored pursuit. I spent the last few months producing graphic art pieces for a 2D design foundations class at RISD, which had me stretching my creative limbs in the realms of pencil, paper, glue, and paint. The basics of design, other than practice, in the form of line, shape, space, color, pattern, repetition, and perspective were familiar strangers, and have since become intimate friends.

My cousin’s college graduation, and the prospect of a new commercial project, have returned me to the loving arms of photography. In the process I’ve developed a new (and psychologically more efficient) method of organizing my photography, and have extended my autodidact explorations into the open source software Darktable and studio lighting.

I’ve been playing with color editing and WB correction. Additionally I spent a significant quantity of time figuring out how to edit my little logo in Inkscape so that it would have the right kind of transparency when transformed into a watermark (as well as how to save a vector graphic into the right directory using the Terminal so as to be able to access the file in Darktable).

Much of the fun has just been in having a camera in my hands again. I said to Eric after our photoshoot, that really, all photographers have a fetishistic streak in them.

The photographer enjoys the simulated power of aesthetic creation. To take a photograph is to reproduce reality (badly) and to convey the aesthetic quality of a moment–I do not believe that the photographer has any real claim to the beauty of a photograph. Photographs can be either effective, affective, or forgettable. The power of the photographer is in that aspect. Though perhaps that is the entirety of what all artists can lay claim to. Words are beyond the individual command of one person, but placement is everything, in language.

In a roundabout way, I’m picking a fight with the concept that photographs are “made” rather than “taken”. The act of depressing the button that fires the shutter and the light captured in the split second is recorded–that is a process of taking a piece of reality and keeping it for yourself. That is the moment when someone’s soul is stolen–captured along with the light inside the camera. When you enter the developing room, or perhaps the editing software suite, when you begin cutting out bits of reality, adjusting the colors and contrast and the depths of reality, that is when you might begin to “make” a photograph.

I am not, however, a student of photography. I am a student of journalism. My approach to reproducing reality, to laying claim to the experience of the world, is to denounce ownership. My personal expectations are that should I have done my job well, the product looks like the world itself: recognizable, strange, complex, illuminated, and indistinct.

I also need to remember the most important rule of photography in the rest of my life: you can never capture the whole thing. The art of photography is the art of framing. It is pulling the audience along and standing them in a particular spot, and showing them something specific.