Picture Analysis – Laura Letinsky

My autocorrect keeps wanting to change Letinsky to Lewinsky, which shows that even successful photographers have a smaller profile than White House interns.

The image quality in the handout seemed quite poor to me for what was expected – not especially in comparison to others in the book – but considering the difficulty in assessing the various dimensions/ planes involved I felt the handout didn’t help. So I looked it up on the suggested site, and that was difficult too. The best copy I could find was actually on a fellow students blog (through Google). And still it remains a toughy. It would be interesting to see this image in the flesh – get a real sense of the subtly in the tones, the sense of scale, the comparison between the rephotographed images and the ‘real images’.

The subject is very ordinary – intentionally so I would imagine.  The objects are kept to a small part of the overall picture. They are spoons, some fruit, pips – possibly some broken crockery or even a coconut, all placed on a reflective tray or table top.  Some objects appear to hover – casting no shadow – while others sit on the table and correspond to a shadow.

Colours are kept to a minimum – with only the red of the fruit, and something on the spoon providing the only colour. The rest of the image is made up of tones – a spectrum of greys and whites – adding to the subtly of variation.

Compositionally, if we had to categorise, I would imagine this is a still life. The idea that a still life is a grouping of objects, is satisfied here, but those ‘objects’ aren’t all ‘objects’ – some are images of objects. The format is roughly square – avoiding a portrait or landscape structure. This subtlety of layering is almost a landscape of tones – foreground/ mid-ground/ distance –  but not with mountains etc, but with tones – and the division between them is varied and unclear. Intentionally, the still life makes up such a small section of the image. Letinsky is telling us that compositionally and conceptually, there is more to it than that.

Letinsky is playing with the dimensions and planes of the image – whether through cut outs, or layering of whites and reflections. To me, she has taken an historic and formulaic art subject, in this case a still life, and used it to challenge what a 2D image is supposed to and can deliver. Every photographic image we look at is taking a 3D world and converting it to a 2D process. We know this – but we try and con ourselves through depth and planes to hide the flatness. By including photographed objects in the image we are accepting the reality – it is a 2D image – we haven’t flattened it, it was flat already.

So apart from this challenging of the visual planes (accentuated through the difficulty of the subtle greyscale), and the reality of the imagine those planes, we can take this a step further to ask ‘how much in your own life is real in the sense of what in front of you physically?’ Are we being lied to? Tricked about what is real and not real. So much of our life is on-line now, and we famously live in an age of fake news. Any real depth in our news is being lost, but the perception that its still there is maintained (or attempted at). A Facebook world where friends, achievements, images exist virtually, whereby holidays, lives, jobs are shared by an image on the screen – whether they happened, existed or not. They hover, flat, and cast no 3D shadow. Can we believe what is in front of our eyes – even if its a still life.



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