Connectivity in photography

08 Apr

It may initiallyPG1 be difficult to see a connection between the work of Andy Warhol, William S. Burroughs and David Lynch recently on show at London’s Photographers Gallery. They are all renown for other genres, however for this trio photography is playing its 20th century role of being present and informing the work of the filmmaker, the artist and the writer. Burroughs casual unskilled imagery lacks much formal structure and as such is at best archetypal of the snap shot ethos. Often reconstituted into grids and collage, somewhat reminiscent of Klein’s painted contact sheets without the rigidity of the form. Always personal, people, still life of artefacts, graphic structures such as radio towers and apparently random street shots. If viewed as a way of reading life as it happens which can be translated into written form to relate experiences one can imagine Burroughs reflecting on the nuances of living through the imagery. Warhol’s work is partly a continued development of the colour repeat pattern imagery now with black and white prints, physical photographs, some times of varying exposure stitched together to make collaged panels with random content did not communicate with the same social drama of the earlier work. Carrying a camera everywhere meant many celebrity friends and acquaintances fell before Warhol’s lens, the result whether purposeful or accidental ironically adding to the subjects nominal 15 minutes. As in Burroughs style, the casual amateur quality showed an anti celebrity warts and all approach bucking the PR/media acceptable look so prevalent even by the time these images where made in the late 70s and early 80s. Essentially by recording the minutia of everyday life Warhol was as Burroughs underpinning ideas and concepts that worked more successfully in other disciplines. The final element of this interesting show came from the first showing in Europe of David Lynch’s Factory Photographs which were right on the contemporary theme of abandonment.  Shot over various locations in Europe and the States Lynch, a keen and skilful photographer, set out to translate his doomey cinematic style into dramatic stills that relate his interest in the detritus and decay of the fabric of heavy industry. Dark contrasty and brooding exteriors mix with haunting long shots of labyrinthine passages and machine halls recalling a visual theme common in his movies. To add to the Lynchian experience the show was supported by a chilling whoosh from one of the artist’s sound installations. Compared to Lynch’s purposeful work accomplished work it would be too easy to dismiss Warhol and Burroughs imagery as facile and meaningless, this show underlines how important photography has been and still is across art culture and life in general as the only democratic medium of communication acknowledging photography’s future security via the amazing mix of recording methods now available both ancient and modern. Consider what Warhol and Burroughs would have done with mobile device cameras?


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