Justin James Reed, Thomas Cole and Toys R Us

Recently I had a conversation with a curator friend who had just returned from one of the big portfolio reviews. Said curator was a reviewer and was voicing his frustrations on the process. I know all about the frustrations of portfolio reviews from a photographers point of view but this forthcoming friend of mine shared his concerns with the reviews and much of the photography they end up seeing across their desk.

What really stood with me was his notice of the lack of real dedication to making a picture the best it be. Curator noticed that in so many landscape works there lacked a dimensionality outside Sunny 16 (or bright mid day sun). In one case one when curator asked one of the landscape photographers he was reviewing why no weather in the pictures, photographer answered ‘I don’t want to get my camera wet’. I had also been thinking about this as it wasn’t long after a trip through Ohio in January to make a pictures in a very big snowstorm. I’ll be honest I’m not a fan of snow but what it can do for a photograph has me bundled up and shoveling my way to find a place for the tripod. For example I came across this earlier version of a very old school closed Toys R Us in Ohio, (Oct 08).

Toys R Us, 2008

For a number of reasons the picture didn’t work for me. I wasn’t happy with the car lights, the dim foreground and placement of the tree. This was actually the 2nd time making a picture here. The first time (Jun 08) my camera fell victim to wind blur over the 1/2 hour exposure. In January (and the snowstorm) I was happy to make the trek out to the TRU again and again explain to the parking lot security dudes why I was there (didn’t they remember me?), clearing out an area in the snow and getting to work.

Toys_R_Us_1

Why all the fuss? Well for one it makes things interesting. For another it solves some of the dilemma of making a photograph of something which often exists in our periphery and giving some kind of consideration. I’ll be honest, it’s this same quality I admire in Justin James Reed‘s work (recently updated on his website). Justin may not be in torrential downpours or lightning storms but in his projects (here Paradise) he shows us seasons.

Norristown, Pennsylvania . 2007

Norristown, Pennsylvania . 2007

Yes we’re all quite aware of the omnipresence of these structures that provide us a continued flow of electrical communication (enables me to write this here), yet Justin’s work acts not as indictments but landscape. A landscape where one would be hard pressed to not see some methodology of human evolution in the gaze of a robotic steel willed totem defiantly standing among brothers. (romantic eh?)

Thornbury, Pennsylvania . 2007

Thornbury, Pennsylvania . 2007

A century ago Justin would be part of the Hudson River School (and would certainly scoff at Sunny 16).

Sunset Over South Philadelphia . 2006

Sunset Over South Philadelphia, 2006 - JJR

Shroon Mountain by Thomas Cole, 1838

Shroon Mountain by Thomas Cole, 1838

4 Comments

  1. Posted July 29, 2009 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    That was probably one of the most valuable lessons I took away from my reviews – to go back and shoot again if something isn’t right and to not settle with less than perfect aka listening to ones internal voice when it expresses any doubt with an image.

  2. Arthur
    Posted August 1, 2009 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    Brian, reading about your encounter with security guards I wonder how you go about when taking pictures in places such as shopping centre parking lots. Do you ask the companies for permission beforehand or do you just go there and hope no one shows up? Recently I was taking pictures outside at local shopping mall (on their parking lot), it was a Sunday so it was closed, after a while I was approached by a securtiy person who told me I couldn’t take pictures there without permission…

  3. Posted August 1, 2009 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    Arthur,
    It’s generally hit or miss. Rarely does security tell me I can’t take pictures. Sometimes it does take bargaining. I often keep pictures on my phone, explain to them what I’m trying to do and ask them questions about the site.
    In January I was in a snowstorm in Mansfield, OH in a mall parking lot. A security guy got stuck in the snow trying to get through the parking lot and I ended up helping dig his truck out. I guess I earned a picture! Being nice can go a long way.

  4. Arthur
    Posted August 1, 2009 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Brian. Really Appreciate that you’re sharing information like this! I also find it very interesting to compare the two Toys R Us pictures.

    In my case the guard was really polite, he was like: Sorry to hassle you but those are the rules, can’t do anything about it…

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