Waves (Color and B&W, 2014)

They are pictures of waves at the beach near where I live, but waves as I’ve never seen before, full of emotional impact but at the same time hard to pin down the actual scale of the wave, or often even if it is right side up or upside down. Very much exploring the same territory as my earlier project, Stieglitz Nebulae, plus a number of new ideas. I’ve been working on this project since 2009—indeed, at least one of those early images made it to the final cut despite twelve to fifteen thousand images being made from first to last.

For these images I did a few basic transformations. Raise the color level, lower the color level, invert the image. That sort of thing. These are nearly “straight” photographs. I did not “paint” in the color.

Try those same transformations with a portrait and you’ll get a very different result—people will know right away it is a person and might even recognize the individual. With the waves there are no “landmarks” so the viewer is forced to try and decipher. With the face there are clear landmarks so recognition plays the dominant role. Deciphering vs recognition.

Oliver Sacks talks about something similar with regard to the inability to recognize faces. There’s a great illusion–discovered only in 1980!–that plays in the same space as these wave images

Here’s a link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bang/article_thatcher.shtml

I made two versions of the wave images, one in color (color turned way up) and one in B&W (color turned way down). It’s commonly said that black and white images gain some of their power by being abstracted from reality, abstracted from color. Color photo can be abstracted in exactly the same way (though in the opposite direction). Color photographs can be abstracted from color.

Even more interesting, when I’m showing the two versions to people they sometimes struggle a bit with some of the images, trying to figure out if they are holding both in the same orientation. They are having real difficulty matching up features in one to the other. Fascinating.

Printed 13×18 or so on 17×22 paper. Five prints made of each image. Eighteen images in the project–here are nine (both color and black and white).

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