The Easel

12th March 2024

Essay: Between machine and eye

Photography has, at times, struggled to be taken seriously as a form of high art. Point-and-click capabilities have democratised the medium – anyone can take a picture, right?  As if to make this image problem worse, the acclaimed Lee Friedlander says he doesn’t have any great ideas. Why then are his images utterly compelling?

Asking “exactly how much [an image] was an accident or not misses the point. Friedlander knows how to look when something interesting is happening. He trusts himself to point the camera and click. Why is he so much better at doing this than most of us? It’s impossible to say. The genius of Friedlander’s photography is to let the camera have its own ideas.”

Stranger than fiction: Discover five striking photographs by Jeff Wall

Wall loves a puzzle. Exploiting the documentary-like quality of photography, he creates images of sometimes elaborately staged scenes. His approach repudiates photography’s origins as a recorder of events, instead placing the medium closer to cinematography. The payoff is that his photography gains a freedom that art forms like painting take for granted. Wall can blend memory and imagination as he wishes, creating not a fact but “a resemblance to a feeling about a fact”.

5th March 2024

Catherine Opie Goes Into Her Archive to Illustrate Why Harmony Is Fraught

Opie’s images of LA’s gay community are notable because they combine the formalities of portraiture with photographic activism. Besides portraying members of her friendship circle her work includes images of LA city – “because I’ve always thought of the city as a body”.  This is Opie linking the public and the personal: “I’m trying to show all this beauty and all this love but, at the same time, remember that that beauty and that love … hits up hard a lot of the time.”