Throughout this essay I will be comparing the work of Brett Weston, Rus Khasanov and Oliver Groulx I intend to look at the similarities and differences between their work, technique, method, history and influences. Brett Weston was a starting point in my project and has been a major influence in my work since I first discovered his photography. Whilst exploring my chosen theme of Reflection and Refraction I discovered other photographers such as the ones I am looking at in this essay.
Brett Weston was born in Los Angeles, America on the 16th December 1911 and died at the age of 82 in Hawaii. His Father, Edward Weston, was also a photographer and played a major role in encouraging his son’s creativity and passion for the subject; at the age of 13 Brett Weston left school and began to work alongside his farther and many other photographers and artists such as Tina Modotti, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. At the age of 17 his work was being displayed alongside his father’s at the International Exhibition at Film und Foto in Germany.
With the unavailability of digital cameras during Weston’s era his influence to create abstract work was stimulated when studying how his father’s images and his first images were transformed from colour into black and white. Brett was fascinated by how this could alter someone’s perception on how they see that object and the power this brought with it. He also loved the contrast presented between the black and white and how this created an abstract image.
Oliver Groulx was also born and raised in America. His first work was published in 2010; his first published work was the music video for The Sound by the band The Human Highway. Groulx videos are part of the concept movement which shares similarities with the abstract movement.
In his videos, Groulx experiments with the combination of different moving images you would not normally associate with one another and makes it fit together as if they were two pieces of a puzzle. He also often reduces the speed of the video and it feels as time has completely slowed down.
Another one of my photographers I’m studying has also published videos for music videos. Rus Khasanov is a Russian graphic designer, born in 1987, who also produces photography and cinematography. He created the music video to Swept Away by the band The XX and his photography was also used for their album art Coexist.
Khasanov focuses his work on abstract imagery using a range of scientific techniques for example refraction, crystallization and the relationship between lipid-based substances and water. This scientific approach means he must adapt his techniques for different shoots; for example, for his portfolio CRYSTALLIZE he had to use a macro lens to be able to document the process that was occurring where as in other shoots he would not need a macro lens but instead a wide angle lens or zoom lens.
I’m going to start by Comparing the work of Rus Khasanov and Brett Weston; specifically looking at the work from Khasanov’s ODYSSEY, 2013 portfolio and Weston’s Fifteen Photographs, 1961 portfolio
ODYSSEY is a selection of images, GIFs and short films documenting the relationship between lipid-based paints (which are hydrophobic) with water. Lipids aren’t soluble in water so the molecules of lipid-based paint try to group together; as a result bubbles are formed. Khasanov was inspired to take this shoot after observing this relationship with soy sauce and water when cooking and recreated it with oil-based paint and water. Weston’s portfolio Fifteen Photographs was published in 1961 is a selection of abstract photo’s taken over the period of 27 years. This portfolio has no specific theme but explores abstract photography in different ways.
The most obvious difference in portfolios is the form; Weston only presents his work in the form of still images whereas Khasanov uses images, GIFs and films to present his work. The use of movement creates the sense of spontaneity and makes you ask the question: “what will happen next?” I also feel that the use of film signifies the change in technology available today. As Weston would not have had the ability to create films as easily in the 1900’s as Khasanov can today and therefore takes advantage of this. Another clear difference is the use of colour in Khasanov’s work compared to black and white images produced by Weston. The use of colour makes the images and films very eye catching with a mood of exoticness, excitement and exhilaration. While Weston’s work is all black and white, uniformity appears. I feel like this distinct style created by Weston is very affective and makes his work easily recognisable. While the use of colour does make Rus Khasanov’s work more eye catching I feel it reveals the subject matter where as with Weston’s work you are presented with a puzzle you must solve before you can understand what it is you’re looking at. As a result his images attract your attention for a longer period of time even though it might not be the first thing you look at.
However, there are many similarities between Weston’s work and Khasanov, for example they both explore the abstract movement and create fascinating images with random shapes and lines. This draws people in as the subject of the photo, or the phenomenon that caused it to occur, may be unknown. Another similarity is the editing – they both create high levels of contrast. This has the effect of making the lines sharper and shadows bolder. This has a powerful affect making their work eye catching and bold. The two portfolios I am comparing focus on documenting manmade objects and substances. I find this interesting because to the creator, what they have produced is not abstract, however, to someone else it can become abstract. For example, taking close ups that only reveal one section of an object gives the photographer control over what they want their audience to look at and not the whole object itself.
Next I am going to compare Rus Khasanov’s ODYSSEY, 2013 portfolio with Oliver Groulx’s portfolio Every Other Freckle.
Every Other Freckle is a concept music video that is composed of multiple short clips of moving images. These are made up of model work, animal work, landscapes and some scientific elements. The image shown above on the right is an image taken through a microscope of a cell that has been affected with green dye. The clip shows the cell membrane being disturbed by a pipette. Cell membranes are formed by a bipohosphate lipid bilayer. The scientific section of this video has similar elements to ODYSSEY which focuses on the relation between lipid-based paints and water.
The clear similarity between these portfolios is the use of film. Both photographers use film to present their work. This presents movement which can draw someone in and maintain their attention for longer that a still image may. I find it interesting how the editing of a film by the photographer gives them complete control over how long we look at an image. For example, in Every Other Freckle some shots are shows for only one second whereas others are shown for up to ten. I believe Groulx does this to signify the significance of each shot, as those that last longer will become more memorable to the audience. He also does this by repeating some shots. Another similarity is the use of multimedia, both films include music and this plays a key role in creating a mood for the films. ODYSSEY is composed of shots of these bubble structures throughout and this cell presents similar qualities in shape and the use of dye changes the colour of the organelles within the cell and they appear like bubbles.
However, ODYSSEY is a video composed of similar shots all made up of these bubble like structures moving and changing formation where as the cell from Every Other Freckle is seen in only one shot of the film. There are a range of subject matters shown in Every Other Freckle which creates a greater contrast with the very concentrated theme of ODYSSEY.
Finally, I am going to be comparing the work of Brett Weston from the portfolio Under Water Nude, with Oliver Groulx’s portfolio Every Other Freckle.
Two music videos to Every other Freckle was created by Groulx in this portfolio – one features a male and one features a female. This video made the video relatable to both males and females as they could view it from a relatable perspective. This was a social experiment seeing which gender got the most views within the first month of being published on YouTube. The two videos were directed and composed identically to control the experiment. The results showed that the female version was most popular. It was not believed to be because more females listened and watched the video from their perspective but instead because of the erotic nature of some parts of the video. This erotic theme is also presented in some of Brett Weston’s photography. However Weston only photographs erotic images of women and not men.
There are other similarities between the two photographers work, for example similar, low camera angels are used, so the focus is cantered on the lower back and Gluteus maximums. The use of lighting also draws attention to these body parts as they have strong highlights which contrast with the shadows. All of Weston’s work was produced in black and white and this was because of the technology available to him at the time he working. Groulx edited his work to be in black and white. The affect of the images being in black and white creates simplicity in their work.
The major difference between Weston’s and Groulx’s work is the form in which they are presented. Weston presents his work in the form of photographs where as Groulx presents his work in the form of short films. I feel that while Weston was revolutionary in the way of moving art forwards in terms of modern technology in the twentieth century, film is the next step forwards in presenting art in the twenty-first century.
In conclusion there are many similarities and differences between the media, method and subject of these photographers work. Although different outcomes are produced, they are all equally influential and inspiring in my project. I also feel that by exploring these photographers in this project I have seen an improvement in my work. I have enjoyed exploring abstract work in this project as it is something I haven’t done in as much depth before, and I intend to look at abstract again in the future.