Is there a greater of-the-moment art form than photography? What happens when everyone is suddenly a photographer? For every action there is an reaction.
I see, with my eye, a TREND in the world of contemporary photography, and I like it. Artists are having a ball doing what they do best, offering us a mirror with a dash of insight. The photographers I am currently recommending are all creating highly stylized, multi-layered stories, instead of merely documenting the quotidian. These photographers are creating imaginative worlds or presenting the ordinary in an extraordinary way.
Photography is accessible in part because it explores a specific theme through a series. I learn much about an artist by how they develop and execute a series. How original is the idea? How engaging is the narrative? I advise my clients to see as many works as possible from the series they are interested in, and then narrow down the selection to three, and finally pick the strongest one.
Here are the photographic series that are catching my EYE:
Brasilian photographer LUCIA KOCH has managed to transform cardboard boxes and paper bags into mind-expanding architectural landscapes. Through her interventions and installations, Lucia’s photographs re-imagine space and our relationship to it. I love how by simply creating skylights or windows in everyday objects, like a cardboard box, Lucia beautifully connects outside with inside. I first saw Lucia’s work covering a full gallery wall, and felt the urge to walk right through it, and take a seat in the inviting box. The Christopher Grimes Gallery in Santa Monica, CA, just debuted Lucia in the US with a show aptly named, “a small show with a lot of space in it.”
The age-old desirous object that is the APPLE gets the 21st century treatment in JESSICA RATH’s “take me to the apple breeder” series. Despite a heady intellectual background, which examines genetics, breeding practices, food diversity and the human desire to manipulate the natural world, Jessica’s series is - first and foremost - elegant art. Working with a fashion photographer, Jessica documented her research subject with 11 oversized photographs, offered in limited editions. The cloned and hybrid apple trees are set against a backdrop of taut white cloths, creating ethereal photographs that are part-portraiture, part landscape photography. You can learn more about the science behind Jessica’s work here or celebrate the series with a healthy crunch.
Moroccan born, Paris based, multi-media artist MOUNIR FATMI is best known for blending geo-politics, pop culture, religion, and history in unexpected ways. His works are often political critiques presented as visual puns. While Mounir is clearly a deep thinker, I also appreciate his playful appropriation of cultural icons. Mounir explores the geometry of LOVE with his “Kissing Circles” series, which juxtaposes two Hollywood classics - Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times and Casablanca (set in his native Morocco). Zooming in on the final kiss between Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart, Mounir overlays the iconic image with circles evoking the mechanization of the industrial age and the predictability of Hollywood romance.
Speaking of romance, Madrid based artist MARTHA SOUL wrote the book on impeccable love with her glossy “Idilios”. The highly stylized, Ad-like series features a mysterious redheaded woman who is lucky enough to be the star of several idealized romantic encounters. (See the entire series here.) The beautifully choreographed photographs set in a luxury hotel, golf course, lush garden, jewelry store, and chic apartment look perfect - at first glance. But, behind the shiny veneer, there is no human emotion. We never see the face of the mystery redhead or her well groomed, rotating gentlemen callers. Martha holds up a mirror to our consumerism and obsession with physical perfection while entertaining us. Still, as a romantic idealist, I fell hard for them….
Collecting photography offers collectors, established or new, a way to experiment or get your feet wet with a purchase. Prices are generally more affordable than other mediums and subject matter is wide-ranging and accessible. Follow your natural interest - fashion, nature, war, skyscrapers, or architecture – to find photographers who are exploring what you are curious about.
I have a preference for art that has quite a bit of “wall power”, so I am drawn to large format photography to create a counterpoint to a traditional setting. A photograph that tells a big story needs an expansive wall to give it room to breathe. Don’t be afraid to select a real conversation starter. Neutrality rarely moves people.
Let me know which photographer grabs your eye, or share a tip on a new photographer.
P.S. Adriana Duque, the Colombian photographer I featured here in my Top Art Miami 2012 Picks, is a great example of this trend with her highly theatrical, slightly sinister photographs.