Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Dawoud Bey

Back when I was struggling to justify my photographic hobby, I used to research photographers to study their work. Since then, I've let taking photos fall to the wayside. It happened in one of those sad, round-about "I'm a non-conformist" sort of ways - which is also gross because I spend most of my free time telling myself I'm not going to listen to outside opinions on what's cool.

It was around this time that I discovered Dawoud Bey. One of the things I struggled most with in photography was taking pictures of people. I liked to, and still do, use my camera as a crutch to continue doing what I did best - avoiding others. I always admired photographs of people that were so candid, honest and raw but the thing was that I was not bold enough to get these confessions myself. My shots of people would always be from some awkward angle off in the shadows - never with anyone looking directly into my lens.

Most impressive, was Bey's use of Polaroids. Bey would photograph his subject(s) multiple times with the Polaroid camera to capture every angle and would end up with slightly distorted proportions. The crazy thing to me was how much this process was a modern-day, photographic adaption of Cézanne (Particularly his work "Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair," 1877 which is currently housed in Boston's Museum of Fine Art)! In this painting, like Bey's Polaroid portraits, Cézanne focuses with equal attention on each individual piece of the painting. This process creates a strange flatness, strange proportions, and unaccounted for spaces. Just something to keep in mind next time I pick up my camera and experiment.

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