“The series title Ill Form and Void Full continues Letinsky’s interest in playing with representations of space and time, but departs from the narrative potential of the still life. It focuses on the relation between positive and negative space, and a more muted depiction of a subject where two and three dimensional forms from different sources co-exist uneasily.” From The Photographer’s Gallery website
While looking at the photographs of Laura Letinsky which were on show at the Photographer’s Gallery, Robert Enoch suggested it would help to consider the meaning of the objects within the photographs, the way they have been juxtaposed and the overall effect this creates. Letinsky’s work can be considered still life; it is conceptual and experimental with a very meticulous approach. Not about narrative rather about dimensionality, different representations that question the nature of photography. It plays with time and space.
Listening to Robert, I am certainly more able to appreciate photography that could be dismissed because it does not conform to ideas of what a photograph should be. This is particularly true in relation to spatial dimension which in these works of Letinsky is not as three dimensional as one might expect. The use of collage (small cut photographs included in the main photograph) is one example of the way she achieves this effect but it is emphasised by symmetry and a short plane of focus that suggests the use of a large format camera which tends to have a small depth of field and is able to distort perspective. One starts to see shapes rather than objects!
The picturing of both fresh and rotting food introduces the notion of time passing.
One is aware of a layered effect in Letinsky’s images owing to different planes of focus. There is a lot of light (the pictures contain a lot of off-white) while the images overall have a somewhat pale glow to them.
One photograph has a bent paper cup at the centre and I can not help but recall rather literally the “punctum” of Roland Barthes; it forms a focal point that draws the eye while the background is very much “schema” (another Barthes reference) which is the warp and woof of the image.
Letinsky clearly adopts the approach of an artist. What is real and what is unreal in these images? Letinsky makes us question the nature of photographic reality. Although the images are largely monotone there is also an exquisite sense of colour.
The objects are life size. They are carefully placed even though they may appear to be at random.
Amusingly, someone thinks that one of the photos has been damaged as he notices some dirty fluid drops on the paper; it does look very realistic but one sees them on another and realises that they are part of the photo and not a result of English rain! Such is the realism of Letinsky’s abstractions which draw one into their realm!
Downstairs in the bookshop, I come across a book of Letinsky’s photographs. They are interesting still life images but the body of work on show upstairs is quite different as a result of it’s “unfocused” appearance.
In a nearby cafe, we talk on into the late afternoon. I have not done much still life preferring instead to see the world outside and try to capture it’s fleeting nature. Robert talks about the constant experimentation involved in this genre, the need to see, to deconstruct – the placing of objects within the frame is not a random process as one considers not just the placement of an object but the way it juxtaposes with others.
One might start a still life by putting a glass down on a table and notice any shadows, employ backdrops and then other objects such as a knife, a fork, a spoon etc
I recall a phrase from William Blake ..
“To see the world in a grain of sand and eternity in an hour!”
One can see a video of Letinsky … here!
Tutor Robert Enoch reads this blog and comments … “Really good points you’ve made here. And remember those ‘drips’: questioning the picture surface? Were they on the (very matte) print or in the photo? Just like the representations of fruit and the real fruit pieces in the photos, there is a questioning about our relation to reality.”