Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Kurt Forester on Photographs and Surfaces

A transcript of a recent Kurt Forster lecture has been posted at DYWSC? heard Mr. Forester comments at a recent Eisenman Studio Jury lament the rise of "photoshoped" images without meaning or purpose attached -- as is a common complaint at many final juries. Here, he goes into welcomed detail...
...As a passive repository of an imprint, photographs lend themselves to the representation of surfaces like no other medium.

Proof that such claims are not groundless comes from the sensational rise of photography in recent decades — not just any genre of photography, but architectural photography. There may be reasons to regret the traffic in images and the concomitant loss of genuine encounters with things we have never seen before, or have never seen as they appear when we first lay eyes on them. True, images have reached flood level, we're drowning in them, hanging on to straws in our impulse to grasp them or at least capture one or another of their aspects. But where the calamity is as immediate as that, there also occurs a shift in the nature of images, as if to compensate for the loss of descriptive accuracy. For, if we may speak of recent architectural photography in such generalized terms, and I think we may, then it is because it shows us buildings under very particular conditions. Shunning the generalized approach that dominated the photography of architecture after World War II, exemplified by such firms as Hedrich-Blessing and Ezra Stoller, contemporary photographers strive to render "atmosphere" as intensely as they record material facts. Constantly shifting from larger views to the smallest details, they elbow the idea of a set format out of the picture and plunge viewers into images that belie their cultivated effects.

Today, materials employed in building have to a great extent lost stable connotations and symbolic meaning. Instead, it is their visual impact that elicits from us an ambivalent reaction. However, it is precisely the indeterminacy of these images that opens up the possibility of experiencing a building in unhackneyed ways. When impressions are pried from materials of all kinds, they convey both more than we can know and less than we spontaneously understand. In the gap between the picture's diffuse effect and our attempt to sort out its ingredients, the image of a building is capable of extending beyond the sphere we customarily attribute to it.


Blogger scisar said...

Hello, fellow architecture blogger, I was just today pinpointed towards your site, from your anonymous editor, a friend of mine. We were looking Kurt Forster's lecture transcript and I have to say, especially as a swiss (architect) I was appalled by your spelling mistake. In the words of that anonymous person: "How many s are there in Jason?(...)"

5:45 PM  
Blogger J said...

Thanks for pointing that out. I can be pretty careless sometimes. I checked out, and looks nice. Happy blogging.


11:16 AM  

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