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Donald Miller
08-20-2006, 12:33 AM
What are your thoughts on these works by this photographer?

http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=106748&handle=li

http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=106812&handle=li

http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=40251&handle=li

Sparky
08-20-2006, 12:49 AM
He's one of those guys I admire in the abstract. He's never done anything I could rave about. But I respect him. I respect him because he was trying to do his own thing, as much as he could within his culture. I remember bringing a Sommer book in to work, when I was assisting and printing for a commercial photographer in the early 80s - to which he responded "this guy is f-ing SICK!!". Interestingly, the photographer was later arrested for attempted indiscretions with his models (the ol' peephole in the dressing room). Go figure.

copake_ham
08-20-2006, 12:55 AM
Since there is now an entire "artistic industry" arising from the skilled ability of Chinese artisans to "de-layer" human bodies under the direction of a German "artist" - resulting in "displays" at various venues - this stuff seems tame.

http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F70F15F6355B0C7B8CDDA10894DE4044 82

Sparky
08-20-2006, 01:11 AM
What are you talking about? The pictures of dead coyotes?? Or is there something morally offensive to you about a skinny artist in a double exposure?

David H. Bebbington
08-20-2006, 02:10 AM
I have just skimmed through www.fredericksommer.org, arguably too fast to do the guy justice. I did not personally find any images I would want to call "sick," perhaps some people would take objection to the severed chicken head. I did notice a commendable willingness to push out the limits of the medium, for example creating "negatives" by non-photographic means such as painting, etc., photographing cut paper, use of sharpness and out-of-focus effects. Equally, I found nothing that really gripped me and stopped me in my tracks.

blokeman
08-20-2006, 10:13 AM
Many years have I been a fan. PARACELSUS must be about the finest piece of work gained from a photographic process. Absolutely stunning piece of art work & when you read how it was done, it is even more stunning. At first glance some of the 'still lifes' are "just a picture of a dead chook" but these images grow on you and they are not as simple as first thought. The photographs he did on the Arizona landscape and flattening it as though it were one plane, are masterful. Definitely not your average 'point-and-shoot' kind of guy & I guess, not for everyone either. He has influenced many artists today.

Lee Shively
08-20-2006, 04:50 PM
I just bought the book "The Art of Frederick Sommer" last week and I'm still forming an opinion on his work. I'm not a great fan of arrangements in photographs. I'm also not a great fan of titles that turn out to be more interesting than the work. So far, I'm not really getting into his photographs or other artwork but that's just an early observation. I thought I would research and familarize myself with Sommer because one of my favorite photographers, Emmet Gowin, idolized him.

Donald Miller
08-20-2006, 05:11 PM
What are you talking about? The pictures of dead coyotes?? Or is there something morally offensive to you about a skinny artist in a double exposure?

If you addressed this comment to me, then you have attributed something to me that I did not state...nor for that matter did I infer. I merely asked for thoughts on the work of Mr. Sommer. The rest is a figment of your imagination.

SuzanneR
08-20-2006, 05:57 PM
I've always admired Sommer's work. As David puts it above, he stretches the medium with his drawings on the negatives. And those forms are so figurative, and yet abstract. I just LOVE looking at them.

The chicken heads, and the severed foot are, I think, disturbing for the subject matter, but they are so extraordinarily beautifully rendered that he quite masterfully elevates them beyond the "yuck" factor. They are all about life, and death, and though the idea of life and death are quite commonly found in a lot of art, I find his particular vision of it unique among 20thc art.

FWIW, I think he's the type of artist that may take awhile to appreciate. When I first encountered his work, it didn't do much for me. But then, I started looking at it again and again, and it just keeps intriguing me. Just give him some time, it's well worth the effort to get to know his work.

Sparky
08-20-2006, 06:11 PM
If you addressed this comment to me, then you have attributed something to me that I did not state...nor for that matter did I infer. I merely asked for thoughts on the work of Mr. Sommer. The rest is a figment of your imagination.

No Donald - sorry for the confusion...! I thought (!) it would be an obvious response to mr. ham's comment - which, to me, seemed as though he took the photographs to be aimed at the shock/schlock market as he was comparing them to bodyworlds... and suggesting he'd seen more shocking stuff... which would (again, to me only perhaps) seem to be REALLY missing the point of Sommer's work.

copake_ham
08-20-2006, 07:27 PM
No Donald - sorry for the confusion...! I thought (!) it would be an obvious response to mr. ham's comment - which, to me, seemed as though he took the photographs to be aimed at the shock/schlock market as he was comparing them to bodyworlds... and suggesting he'd seen more shocking stuff... which would (again, to me only perhaps) seem to be REALLY missing the point of Sommer's work.

Actually, Sparky, it was you who quoted the term "F---ing sick" as a comment made by a contemporary of yours in the 1980's.

I simply stated that given The Bodies exhibitions - one would hardly characterize these photos (yes, espescially the dead coyotes) as "sick" nowadays.

What's really odd is how you construe a complementary comment - building on your own point - as an attack and then need to "go for the jugular".

How about this - you don't comment on anything I say here and I will do the same with regard to you. Deal?

Sparky
08-20-2006, 07:42 PM
Actually, Sparky, it was you who quoted the term "F---ing sick" as a comment made by a contemporary of yours in the 1980's.

I simply stated that given The Bodies exhibitions - one would hardly characterize these photos (yes, espescially the dead coyotes) as "sick" nowadays.

What's really odd is how you construe a complementary comment - building on your own point - as an attack and then need to "go for the jugular".

How about this - you don't comment on anything I say here and I will do the same with regard to you. Deal?

I deeply apologize if you had the impression I was "going for the jugular" - I just thought that maybe you perceived Sommer as something of a "shock artist" since you compared him to the exhibit in question - esp. in light of the witkin thread. I think that's sort of a problem with these forums and indeed the whole - text only format - it's sort of difficult to know where people are coming from and all subtlety is lost. At any rate - I just want you to know that I hadn't perceived it as an attack at ALL. Honestly. And the last thing I want to do is offend or alienate (though I suppose it wouldn't be the first time to transgress my own 'rule' - sometimes it can't be helped). Forgive me? It wasn't my intention.

eclarke
08-21-2006, 08:17 AM
Pretty landscapes, old barns, birds, kids etc. are all just fine but one of the things which has motivated my search for subject matter is the "visual surprise" that makes photographs really great and it doesn't need to have shock value to accomplish the objective. Fred Sommer definitely provides a visual surprise and his technical ability is unquestioned, some of today's greats learned from him..EC

Jerevan
08-21-2006, 09:45 AM
His Arizona Landscapes did something for me, coming from Ansel Adams and his way of seeing landscapes. Just the fact that he excluded the sky and used a different angle made me stop and look a second time, trying to figure the photographs.

He seems to come somewhere "in-between" art and photography, a mixed-media artist with a sometimes abstract and introspective view of things. It has taken time for me to digest his works, but his landscapes and some of his paper cuts is really great stuff. The "Virgin and Child, St. Anne and Infant St. John" photograph reminds me of a "found objects" idea (such as Marcel Duchamps). The word "remix" comes to mind; he seemed to be aiming for making something new out of old and worn-out stuff. And some of it, just for doing it.

Will S
08-21-2006, 09:56 AM
The conflict that the nun created in Aperture over the foot photo seems to have helped the mag gain some new readers at a time when it needed them. I personally don't mind the subject matter at all. One of Sommer's dead coyote pictures is one of my alltime favorites. Death is just as much a part of existence as pretty sunsets and Cornish beaches. I'm a little confused by people who are upset by pictures. They are just pictures after all.

Sommer to me seems to be one of those artists who pays extremely close attention to the construction and placement of every single detail in the frame. Even pictures of garbage come alive and are turned into objects of beauty when treated in this fashion.

Best,

Will

Will S
08-21-2006, 11:11 AM
I just ran across this quote from Minor White:

"Art traditionally claims a concern with man's pure impulses and clean motives, yet many a contemporary psychologist thinks that all this is pure hokum. So do some photographers. And in protest and in truth, in soul searching and awareness of our self-destroying age, many people in contemporary art, notably Frederick Sommer in contemporary photography, present images which are intended in such a particular way that if the viewer engages the images at all, then the viewer will see something of himself. If what he sees is unpleasant, that there may be some truth in that some part of himself is unpleasant—if dirty, morbid and so onà If he is struck with terror, perhaps he has met something worthy of his fear. If he finds something magnificent, it is because something beautiful in him has been magnified."

whole article at http://elmo.academyart.edu/study/ph101/Required%20reading/White%20Equivalence.htm

c6h6o3
08-21-2006, 11:54 AM
A marvelous photographer. I admire everything of his I've ever seen. The portrait of Max Ernst is probably the least intestesting of all his works, and I still love it.

c6h6o3
08-21-2006, 12:00 PM
Sommer to me seems to be one of those artists who pays extremely close attention to the construction and placement of every single detail in the frame.

...as well should we all. The photographer is responsible for 100% of the image area. If you change anything about Sommer's photographs they fall apart compositionally, just as would _Le Sacre du Printemps_ or ee cummings' poetry.

catem
08-21-2006, 12:19 PM
I'm not very aware of much of Sommer's work but what I've seen seems evocative and thought-provoking (if that's not the same thing - don't think it is quite...).
Cate