View Full Version : Discuss a Matt Miller Photograph (APUG member!)

Jim Chinn
08-15-2006, 09:14 AM
During the recent discussion of a Lee Fiedlander photograph, Aaron Siskind was brought up in the conversation. Siskind did a lot of photography of totally non-representational subjects, pure abstracts, more about form and tonality than anything else. I was going to post one of his when I saw Matt's recent post of Metal Abstract in the galleries and thought it would make just as worthy a subject.

Matt kindly gave permission for the use of the image in this forum and hopefully he will join in at some point.

As discussed in the sticky thread to this forum, images by APUG members are very welcome, but you must get permission from the member to post it here.

08-15-2006, 09:53 AM
Just my 2 centavos, but wouldn't it be more appropriate to comment on an APUGer's photos in the Critique Gallery?

08-15-2006, 10:15 AM
If the photograph is placed here, than anyone (not just subscribers) can see the full image, and better participate. However, I do agree with you - let's make sure we keep the member critiques in the Critique gallery - after all, that's what it's for.

Bill Hahn
08-15-2006, 10:21 AM
I'm a sucker for texture, I like the Siskind abstracts, and I am never happier than when photographing rusty hinges - so I like this image.

But if you break it into quadrants, the top two quadrants and bottom left quadrant are much more interesting to me than the bottom right. The lighter tones and more complicated patterns draw my eye to the top left, so much so that I wonder what was present just above the top left corner of the picture; I'd be interested hearing from Matt why he framed it the way he did.

And while the abstract patterns please my eye, the image doesn't have (for me) the emotional impact of the Levitt photo, for example.

It sounds like I'm carping, but I do like the image. (But us texture junkies have lots of photos of
tree bark, peeling paint, crumpled papers bags, etc.....)

Jim Chinn
08-15-2006, 11:11 AM
I think there are quite a few images that have been posted to the APUG galleries that have qualities just as good or better then those of well known photographers. Photographs well worthy of discussion in this venue.

(As discussed in the sticky thread to this fourm, you must get the APUG member/photographers permission, otherwise the thread will be deleted)

One issue that has become apparent in other threads is that a lot of "baggage" comes with knowing about the photographer in question as well as being familiar with copious amounts of writing regarding that photographers supposed intentions.

With this image we have no pre-conceived ideas or notions as to the author's intentions. I selected it for that reason and because it is an excellent example of one extreme that can be achieved with a camera. The factual rendering of an abstract form. Except for the clue given by Matt in the title this is simply about light, dark and shape. The title allows one to recognize areas that appear to be folds in the metal, but we have no other clue as to size, depth, and surface.

One could say such an image is to simple because a facsimile could be made with canvas and paint. Yet the ability of the photographer to find the subject, see it and frame it is just as important a skill. That may be why someone such as Aaron Siskind was considered a peer among the great Ab Ex and Action Painters of the late 40s and 50s. He shared some of the same ideas and vision, just used a different tool, no less valid in producing art.

Like Blansky discussed in other posts, one can dissect the image and talk about the cropping or tonality that may or may not be present in the actual silver gelatin print. Some of those may be valid. I find a fascinating set of shapes, various weighting of tones, and areas of positive and negative space.

Then again, maybe this is simply to far a departure from what might be considered real photography for some. Love to hear some thoughts.

08-15-2006, 12:26 PM
i really enjoy this photograph a lot.
the midtones have a nice translucent feel to them and the
"peppered" darkness gives me a feeling that i am looking at the heavens.

a lot of people have trouble looking at abstract imagery. they forget that it really isn't "what it is" but something else. it's hard to say what that something else might be, can be different things to different people. in the thumbnail, i see a profile/face that looks like a charcoal drawing or etching.

it really has a nice 3-d feel to it.


Will S
08-15-2006, 12:34 PM
This reminds me of some of Meatyard's work where he would freeze various items in tubs of water and then photograph them. Neat stuff.



Jim Chinn
08-15-2006, 12:40 PM
it is also somewhat reminiscent of a couple Brett Weston images of patterns in ice. A couple of the details I like are some of the white patterns in the darker area at the bttom right quarter. Reminds me of hieroglyphics.

Jim Chinn
08-15-2006, 12:47 PM
If you flip the image it has a different feel. It makes for an interesting comparison.

I can flip it in windows but can't seem to be able to then save it to repost. Can someone possibly post the image again but rotate it 180 degrees?

08-15-2006, 12:54 PM
It reminds me of a Jackson Pollock painting (in a complimentary sense). Normally a photograph easily lets me grasp onto something concrete. This image forces me to look more abstractly and let go of reality. Very effective.

Jim Chinn
08-15-2006, 01:09 PM
It reminds me of a Jackson Pollock painting (in a complimentary sense). Normally a photograph easily lets me grasp onto something concrete. This image forces me to look more abstractly and let go of reality. Very effective.

It's intersting that the ratio of cropping looks close to a lot of Pollock's big drip paintings like Autumn Rhythm (no.30) http://www.metmuseum.org/Works_of_Art/viewOnezoom.asp?dep=21&zoomFlag=0&viewmode=1&item=57%2E92

I could see this as big as 7'x18' on a wall in a Abstract Expressionist show.

08-15-2006, 04:58 PM
I have looked at it several times now - and it feels like one I will come back to.

It has a, for want of better words, "painterly feel". It has a subtle, low-key abstractness. I think it would have had a different impact if it had been in colour. This photograph leaves some space for thinking about and exploring the relationship between different parts and tonal values within it. Well seen.

08-15-2006, 05:14 PM
If you flip the image it has a different feel. It makes for an interesting comparison.

I can flip it in windows but can't seem to be able to then save it to repost. Can someone possibly post the image again but rotate it 180 degrees?

I'm working with limited tools here in the office (MS Office Picture Manager) but here's your flipped image:

08-15-2006, 07:34 PM
Very reminiscent of Carl Chiarenza for me...



matt miller
08-15-2006, 07:54 PM
Itís very interesting to me to read all of the different takes on this photograph. I found this old hunk of metal (canít for the life of me figure out what it used to be) on a walk through a park that I visit frequently. I was immediately drawn to its randomness; the folds in the metal, the scratches, the tonalities in the discoloration and wear. Manmade in part, but not with design or intention. I found myself getting lost in it.

When I set up my camera I had a hard time picking a composition out the whole, one that felt right. I decided to back up and photograph the entire object, just as I had encountered it. The finished photograph has, for me, that same lost feeling.

John McCallum
08-16-2006, 12:12 AM
Very reminiscent of Carl Chiarenza for me...

=michelle=I was going to say that too ...

08-16-2006, 01:48 AM
I know it's a piece of metal, I've read Matt's story about how he found and photographed it, but that still hasn't changed how I look at it.

I see the skull of a bird, like a Sandhill Crane, encased in fractured ice and frost. The light areas cringe against the edges of the print creating tension and leaving a dark abyss. This image, to me, is about death...or...being frozen in the moment of death.

Everybody interprets the world, and art, through their own accumulated life experiences, which of course is unique for each of us. I don't think there can be right or wrong answers when interpreting art, even if it completely contradicts what the artist, gallery owner, or curator say it should say.

Maybe it reminds me of the series of thoughts and sensations I got as a kid when I found dead animals frozen in ice while snowshoeing. First you see a dark area in the ice, then you stoop down to look closer, then you have to get on your knees to see through the ice just to be sure it's not what you are dreading to see, then, with your face just above the ice you recognise it as a bird, or a skunk. That makes a big impact on a 10 year old...this print reminds me of that.


08-16-2006, 02:31 AM
Jim my one comment about this post is that many people are saying such things as "like so and so ...." or in the style of ----

To me that actually defeats the purpose of discussing the image.

It almost reduces the image to something with little or no merit of its own. A comparison with another photographer suggests [to me] that the photographer was influenced and as such has little ability other than to copy another theme or idea.

It is a wonderful image. Regardless of the time it was taken or who by.

Because Matt is an "unknown" -- his work to me has a power that isn't influenced by the hype attributed to the greats of the past -- and they definately were.

Personally I would prefer in this thread to look at images from past photographers.

Nice image Matt it has a Sci Fi feel for me but I don't know why.