Welcome to the Essential Light Photography Blog By Jim Sabiston

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Promise of Days in Sunshine

I've spent much time recently experimenting with images of people. This probably wouldn't strike most as being unusual unless you consider the nature of my early photography work, which was almost entirely devoid of human presence. Recalling that my day job requires, if anything, a rather intense involvement with a broad range of people, from UN representatives to cleaning staff, in both good moods and bad, in matters personal and professional. My weekends were generally spent in a concerted effort to get AWAY from people! My early photography, with it's emphasis on nature and landscapes was a direct result of this.

I've noticed a change in myself recently. While my high stress day job has not changed a bit, my recent iPhone experiments in New York City and elsewhere have opened up an unexpected door to a rather different perspective. At least part of this progressive change can be traced back to Sean Kernan's suggestion to me to study Robert Frank's book 'The Americans'. The process had already begun in the form of my street photography, but Mr. Kernan's suggestion and Robert Frank's work have catalyzed the formation of the process in my mind and photography goals.

The result can be seen in my growing series of City images, taken with both the iPhone and my Leica. The subject matter has shifted from the 'traditional' form of street photography towards a specifically broader perspective: that of the relationship of people within the spaces they inhabit and to each other. I have tried to capture a specific dynamic in the urban images, where nature has been severely constrained to a bare trace of an existence in what, a little over a century ago, was once a mostly natural woodland. What greenery now remains is entirely man made, in the sense that every tree has been intentionally planted and maintained by man in a specific, purposely restricted space. I find an inevitable stress in the natural relationship results which broadcasts itself into the dynamics of human interrelationships in these densely populated spaces.

(click image to enlarge)               No Connection
The word 'alienation' is certainly an overused descriptor, but that element is profoundly present and captured in these photographs. Lone isolated trees and lone isolated people at the center of one of the most densely populated urban centers of the world.

(click image to enlarge)                   The Confrontation
A very subtle change has taken place during the process of taking these photographs, however, and one that was entirely unexpected. The importance of the personal relationships has started to come to the fore. The New York City work does not lend itself easily to this due to the rather specific direction of the project. Instead, it has presented itself at family gatherings, especially in the presence of the very young and old members of the family as they act out the natural dynamics that comprise all families. Here is the stuff of our lives and an enormously fertile field of potential. The difficulty lies in taking these daily, commonplace events and bringing forth the soul that lies deep within the heart of the relationships in play, the stuff of memories recorded in the albums of family snapshots.

(click image to enlarge)            The Promise of Days in Sunshine
This is pretty nearly the exact opposite space from where my photography started. Funny how that works...

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