Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Off-topic: Photography

Perhaps you'll struggle to believe this given the poor-ness of my product photos (in my defence, I've always despised portraiture, especially self portraiture, and my DSLR is shoddy at best!) but I actually have a degree in Photographic Art. (!) Yes, I know, they'll let anyone on these days. Anyway, I thought it might interest you to see what rocks my world apart from fashion and all things hair.

Fittz, J Bennett; Jacksonville, 2006

J Bennett Fittz is an American photographer who creates the sort of images that make me a little bit weak at the knees. In particular, his most popular-series 'No Lifeguard on Duty' actually inspired my graduate work, though I'm sure Fittz would be horrified by that fact. The series is a gorgeous and engaging meditation on decline and abandonment. Fitts has traveled all over the United States photographing empty swimming pools in roadside motels. "American ascendancy goes hand –in-hand with the rise of the automobile and the interstate highway. So much of our identity and fiction stems from this, the beatniks, the promise of suburbia, expectations of the summer family vacation, fast food and rock’ n’ roll. The 1960’s motel harkens back to a time in which summer was long and the livin’ was easy." Fitts’ photos show those pleasure palaces in ruins. Overgrown and mucky, the pools sit empty of water and promise. The adjoining motels in the photos appear to be symbols of downward mobility instead of a site for the freewheeling fun and carefree youth.

Fittz, J Bennett; North Shore, 2006

California has often been the end point for the road trip and but is the beginning-Hollywood-of national fantasies which are distributed throughout the world. Fitts’ Salton Sea shows the polluted, over-salinated inland sea encroaching on an abandoned motel swimming pool. "The palm trees, once a symbol of endless summer, look sickly and alone."

Fittz, J Bennett; Salton Sea, 2006

Fitts engages in a conversation between photography and historical painting. Photos such as Jacksonville shot at sunset have the sumptuousness of a Claude Lorrain or John Constable painting. But their romantic sense of elegy, ruin and regret most vividly recall fellow American Thomas Cole’s cautionary Course of Empire (1836). Here Fitts’ ruins are ruins of the future. Postwar modernism sought to be ahistorical. The future was always just around the corner, always bright. In this sense, Fitts’ photographs have a bite. The images speak to an entire range of economic failures and cultural aspirations. He also shares Ed Ruscha’s and Bernd and Hilla Becher’s formalist rigor in cataloging vernacular structures. "The pictures contain such a range of contradiction and beauty that they settle in your mind like an irritant." They are difficult to forget.

Fittz, J Bennett; Huntington, 2006

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