Back at the SIP blog, Rotem Rozental posted about Richard Benari and Lauren Henkin’s collaborative project about the nature of photography. Their work, their questions, could be the starting point of a discussion always worth having.
On their site, Richard Benari and Lauren Henkin made available some audio files where you can listen to them talking about essential questions concerning photography (though these are very very short and subjective ideas, don’t expect to hear something ground-breaking). Lauren and Richard talk about Influences and abstraction in photography, Creating Pictures and materiality, Removing narrative in photography, Influences, Minimalism, The importance of the print and Seriality.

BenariHenkin_Pictures_Image6© Richard Benari and Lauren Henkin, Pictures

As photography has matured into its own artistic medium, narrative has become the conceptual foundation on which most work is created. The act of viewing an image is no longer sufficient. Content has been replaced by context. More and more, photographers, gallerists and critics insist on story. Images have become testimony and photographers, witnesses. The photographic object itself has become evidence. Most photography now sets out to answer questions while other artistic mediums set out to raise them.

We began this project by asking what photography can achieve in the absence of narrative. We wanted to know if the essential language of light, texture and tone was enough to hold the viewer. It wasn’t. What was missing was the artist’s hand, the photographer’s eye. We set out to push the camera beyond its natural tendency for pure representation and investigate its capacity to convey the artist’s expressive mark.

Rejecting the current trend toward the accidental in photographic abstraction, Pictures reasserts the photographer’s eye. Authority and indexicality are explored through the artists’s rendering of abstraction in the recognizable, the everyday. By pairing large landscapes of the familiar with small studio constructions of household materials, the photographers reaffirm the sensual power of form. Scale and reference are ambiguous. Narrative is removed. The images are disorienting. They challenge the viewer to rethink old habits of seeing.

BenariHenkin_Pictures_Image4© Richard Benari and Lauren Henkin, Pictures

Pictures is as much about the object as it is about deep looking. The subtly of the tonal shifts and the way the prints annex the ambient light in which they’re viewed helps argue for the uniquely tactile quality of the photographic print and how important it is to the viewing experience. Careful split-toning, combined with the artists’ decision to print on etching rag, renders the image in an almost three-dimensional way. The tension between the flatness of the compositions and the three-dimensional feel of the prints helps to hold the viewer, encouraging a long and quiet engagement.

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