Studio Studies by Tom Florio
From Studio Studies by Tom Florio
From LensWork #35
© 2001 Tom Florio. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the photographer.
Conventional wisdom divides photography into "found" subjects — think landscapes, documentary, and social commentary — and its opposite "constructed" subjects. I've always been slightly uncomfortable with this division because it seems to deny that the so-called found subjects are not constructed. A case could be made that found subjects are also constructed because of all the things we photographers do in the normal course of making an image — selecting where to put the camera, what the frame in the photograph, how to control depth of field, exposure control and basic tonalities, and of course all the variables that are available to us in finishing an image in the darkroom or in Photoshop. How is all of this not a construction? But, you say, we are not manually positioning things in the composition. Are you sure about that? Isn't the choice of camera angle and framing a way of positioning things in the composition even if we don't physically touch the things photographed?
In this portfolio, Tom Florio presents us with a series of images that most people would call constructions. In fact, doing so will change the way we look at the work — and that's part of the reason I tried to resist such definitions. The mental classification we make influences what we see. I've found it much more useful to think of this kind of work as symbolic rather than as constructions. That is to say, I tried to put the emphasis on what the photographer is showing us rather than on how they made the photograph.
This photograph is a perfect example. When I think of it as a construction, I become focused on the objects themselves and try to identify what they are. Are these long vertical objects string or wire? Are they pine needles or grass stalks? Immediately, I miss the symbolic. When I approach this with a visual metaphor I find I ask a completely different set of questions. Rather than focusing on what it is I find it easier to think about what it is like. In this example, this image reminds me of musical notation turned 90°. The leaves are notes, the lines the musical staff. Suddenly I find my mind racing in arpeggios and falling leaves. It's a completely different experience — and for me a much richer one — when I stop thinking about how the photograph was made and instead allow myself to be swept up in what the photograph communicates and how it makes me feel.
The portfolio can be seen in its entirety in our back issues — print (while still available) and our PDFs for computer, iPad, Android, and other devices. Plus, bonus audio commentary about this image is available to members of LensWork Online.
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