Day Off 03

It was refreshing to encounter some wonderful black and white images at the galleries I visited last Friday. Before transitioning to color, I photographed exclusively in black and white for many years so I certainly have an affinity and fondness for the medium.

At Haines Gallery, Adou Samalada's Man & Sheep portrait was stunning. Deep blacks and the blotchy textures from the characteristics of expired film complemented his subject matter. The series depicts the disappearing Yi ethnic minority in his native Sichuan province in China. The silver gelatin print was enlarged to 50 inches high which I thought contributed to the image's arresting quality. Unfortunately, seeing in on screen does not give justice to the original piece.

Adou Samalada
Haines Gallery
September 10- October 17

Man and Sheep
Adou Samalada


At Fraenkel Gallery, Hiroshi Sugimoto continues to push the boundaries by using electricity as his subject matter and capturing it on film. One of the common threads to his work is his adherence to using only the traditional materials of the medium: time, light, film and camera and masterfully altering them to produce stunning images. I stood there in awe looking at the details: the hair-thin light streaks and the naked tree shaped patterns scattered arbitrarily against the largely dark, unexposed backdrop. Beautiful.

From the gallery's press release:

Sugimoto’s “Lightning Fields” depict electricity, an element that — especially for photographers working with large-format negatives — has historically been problematic and uncontrollable. Static electricity is well known to scar photographers’ negatives, and consequently to destroy their images. (This is one reason why carpets are not installed in darkrooms.) Viewing the challenge as an opportunity rather than a problem, Sugimoto has inverted the process and made nature’s static scars the focus of his attention.

To create each image, Hiroshi Sugimoto uses a Van De Graaff 400,000-volt generator to apply an electrical charge directly onto film. The result in each case is a unique, instantaneous image of an electrical current, sometimes resembling a meteor shower, or a “treeing effect” on the film. Sugimoto’s recent body of photographs continue to evidence the primordial and metaphysical qualities that define his oeuvre.

Hiroshi Sugimoto: Lightning Fields
Fraenkel Gallery
September 10- October 31

Lightning Fields, 119.
Hiroshi Sugimoto


Finally at Gallery 291, Mary Frey forms an analogy between photography and taxidermy. On her website, she writes:

Photography invites us to pay attention. It describes with economy, precision and detail. It enables us to stare, scrutinize, and become voyeurs. Taxidermy allows us to do the same. Its complete replication of an animal’s stance, gesture and look provides us a way to study and comprehend its existence. Yet I find that these animals, often portrayed in suspended animation, seem simultaneously strange, ghostly and beautiful. Their gaze is both familiar and unknown. I intend this work to move beyond what is merely seen to the territory of the imagination, where what is remembered and known is transformed into something new.

For this body of work, the original images are ambrotypes- a photographic image on blackened glass. It is created using the wet plate collodion process, which was popular in the mid nineteenth century. The use of archaic chemistry and materials usually depict a decayed, haunting and mysterious feel to the images which I am always drawn to. I viewed her work with much appreciation to the photographic process.

On the other side of the gallery were Michael Garlington's unconventional portraits. I read this review that described his work as "Joel Peter Witkin meets Diane Arbus." He uses the now extinct Type 55 Polaroid film creating a raw and unfinished quality to his final images. Clowns, animals, naked bodies. umbrellas and bowler hats-- nothing is too odd for Michael to tackle when it comes to his portraiture.

Mary Frey: Imagining Fauna
Michael Garlington: Garlington's Travels
Gallery 291
September 10- October 31

Varying Hare
Mary Frey

From the Album Series
Michael Garlington