22
Apr
15

Artist in focus: Larry Fink

April 2015

 

Hands / Class – Tree, Surface, Root

These are magnificent photographs. Fink’s mastery of the picture plane, ensemble, mise-en-scène, chiaroscuro is outstanding. But for me it is the attitude of the hands that make these photographs. Reaching, holding (usually the bodies of women), clasping, upturned, crotch grabbing, oversized, limp, clenched and gesticulating – in more of less every photograph it is the positioning of the hands that are the focus of my attention, and their relation to the social class of the proponent. The hedonism of Studio 54, the snobbishness of the benefits at MoMA and Corcoran Museum, and the Russian and Hungarian balls with their icy coolness and sidelong glances, all played off against the working class birthday parties of Pat Sabatine.

I spoke to my mentor L about these photographs and we had a lively discussion:

MB: What do you think of the work of Larry Fink:

L: The image of the child holding up his hand was on the cover of the second (?) Larry fink monograph. They are OK, but not great.

I have a rule: “The closer we get to the origin the more options we have.” But Larry is building on heaps of people – Winnogrand, Mark Cohen etc, and earlier. And when that happens it really needs to be BUILT to be a success for the viewer. But he is just adding a bit. Its good, OK work. It’s mainly referencing stuff though. I can’t see anyone building on what he has done, a worker would have to go down the tree to a point before him to progress again.

Photography is pretty much fantastic before the fact, so things can look pretty good if it just happens. The process is so different from the reproduction of music that keeps trying to return to an original – photography has done that, but then runs tangential ideas where there can be flash and frozen time and no colour etc…

MB: I can understand what you are saying L … even though I don’t necessarily agree!

There is an essay I have just read as part of a Joan Fontcuberta book (“The Right Distance,” in Joan Fontcuberta. Pandora’s Camera: Photogr@phy after Photography. Mack, 2014, pp. 143-150). It’s interesting what he has to say about the “distance” of the photographer from the object… long distance landscape (in Victorian times… Muybridge, Carelton Watkins), long distance city (Marville) – the infinite sublime I call it – coming closer with Atget (parts of doors, stairs, closer engagement) and Blossfeldt – and then the avant garde in the 1920s with the dissolution of far near into near far… followed by New Topographics and the gridding of space, the regimentation and delineation of an even narrower point of view, both aesthetically and objectively.

I am paraphrasing but that is what he says anyway. It makes sense in one way. But in another we do not have to be either/or – near/far. Nor do we have to be “new” every time we take a photograph.

What I am arguing is that you do not always have to reinvent the wheel, in answer to your observation that you have to go back down the tree. Nothing is ever new and sometimes, as with the photography of Fink, it is the gesture that is enough for me – that human gesture that will never happen again exactly in that form. I am still in wonder of that moment, of the child’s raised hand (Pat Sabatine’s 8th Birthday Party). I don’t really care that people have done it before, they have never captured that moment, that precise gesture before… and it is still beautiful to me. The apple never falls far from the tree.

L: A good term Marcus: the infinite sublime.

Fontcuberta understands it very well – mainly because it could be applied to the best of his pictures in terms of the continnual involvement that some of them generate. As I said, the Larry Finks are OK. Have you seen the youtube about Joel Sternfeld photographing in NY? He is literally right in peoples faces, and yet they don’t even seem to notice him. I’d like to see one of Larry Fink with his flash in these small rooms and intimate spaces.

What I can say is that some smart person will invent the term that distinguishes between the surface aesthetic of the digital and analogue print. There is such “value” in the display here [of Fink’s work], that would not mean the same in a digital print. Why? The analogue look could even be faked to fool everyone I suppose. Even with these, the surface would fall apart @ about 19″ sq and it would all be lost.

MB: It is the surface aesthetic L, but it goes deeper than that. I saw the Richard Avedon exhibition up at The Ian Potter Museum of Art were his negatives were blown up to enormous size and digitally printed… and they just didn’t work. There is a containment of energy within a classical analogue black and white photograph that the surface of a digital print cannot capture, yes, but in a good analogue photograph there is also an emotional depth that seems to transcend surface…. and as yet, digital photographs rarely approach this state of being. What would be a word that evinces surface and psychological depth at one and the same time?

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Larry Fink is a prominent American photographer who is best known for capturing images of high-profile social events. Fink’s images from the 1970s and 1980s capture individual vignettes within social gatherings, and nod to the development of documentary photography within the image-driven culture of the second half of the twentieth century. Some of the photographs below are from Fink’s series 82 Photographs 1974 to 1982 and Making Out 1957 – 1980 and depict scenes from clubs and parties in and around New York City. Fink’s subjects are caught off-guard by his camera, and their expressions provide windows into their weariness or giddy party euphoria. Capturing groups and individuals at surprisingly intimate and vulnerable moments, his photographs subtly reveal the disconnect often found between a subject’s public image and his or her inner self. For example, in Peter Beard’s, East Hampton, Fink captures a dynamic group of people in various levels of engagement with one another. While some are intertwined, others glance outward to the party beyond, having seemingly lost interest in the gathering at hand.

 

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941) 'Peter Beard's, East Hampton', from the portfolio '82 Photographs 1974 to 1982' 1982; printed 1983

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
Peter Beard’s, East Hampton, from the portfolio 82 Photographs 1974 to 1982

1982; printed 1983
Silver gelatin print

 

Larry Fink. 'John Sabatine and Molly' 1980

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
John Sabatine and Molly
1980
Silver gelatin print

 

Larry Fink. 'Jean Sabatine and Molly' 1983

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
Jean Sabatine and Molly
1983
Silver gelatin print

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941) 'N.Y.C. Club Cornich', from the portfolio '82 Photographs 1974 to 1982' 1977; printed 1983

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
N.Y.C. Club Cornich, from the portfolio 82 Photographs 1974 to 1982
1977; printed 1983
Silver gelatin print

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941) 'N.Y.C. Club Cornich', from the portfolio '82 Photographs 1974 to 1982' 1977; printed 1983

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
N.Y.C. Club Cornich, from the portfolio 82 Photographs 1974 to 1982
1977; printed 1983
Silver gelatin print

 

Larry Fink. 'Benefit, Corcoran Museum, Washington DC' 1975

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
Benefit, Corcoran Museum, Washington DC
1975
Silver gelatin print

 

Larry Fink. 'Benefit, Corcoran Museum, Washington DC' 1975

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
Benefit, Corcoran Museum, Washington DC
1975
Silver gelatin print

 

Larry Fink. 'Benefit, MoMA, New York' 1977

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
Benefit, MoMA, New York
1977
Silver gelatin print

 

Larry Fink. 'ICP Peter Beard Opening' 1977

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
ICP Peter Beard Opening
1977
Silver gelatin print

 

Larry Fink. 'Oslin's Graduation Party' 1977

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
Oslin’s Graduation Party
1977
Silver gelatin print

 

Larry Fink. 'Oslin's Graduation Party' June 1977

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
Oslin’s Graduation Party
June 1977
Silver gelatin print

 

Larry Fink. 'Studio 54' 1977

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
Studio 54
1977
Silver gelatin print

 

Larry Fink. 'Studio 54, New York City' May 1977

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
Studio 54, New York City
May 1977
Silver gelatin print

 

 

Shore writes that the four ways, “in which the world in front of the camera is transformed into the photograph” are flatness, frame, time, and focus.  Fink was aware of these attributes of photography and used them to define the picture’s content and structure. (The depictive level)

Shore, Stephen. The Nature of Photographs. John Hopkins University Press, 1998 quoted by Tyler Brennan Reiss, October 16, 2013.

 

Larry Fink. 'Studio 54, New York City' May 1977

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
Studio 54, New York City
May 1977
Silver gelatin print

 

Larry Fink. 'Studio 54, New York City' May 1977

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
Studio 54, New York City
May 1977
Silver gelatin print

 

Larry Fink. 'Washington DC' 1975

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
Washington DC
1975
Silver gelatin print

 

Larry Fink. '2nd Hungarian Ball' 1978

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
2nd Hungarian Ball
1978
Silver gelatin print

 

Larry Fink. 'Russian Ball, New York' 1976

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
Russian Ball, New York
1976
Silver gelatin print

 

 

“Sometimes you’re invited to a big ball and for months you think about how glamorous and exciting it’s going to be. Then you fly to Europe and you go to the ball and when you think back on it a couple of months later what you remember is maybe the car ride to the ball, you can’t remember the ball at all. Sometimes the little times you don’t think are anything while they’re happening turn out to be what marks a whole period of your life. I should have been dreaming for months about the car ride to the ball and getting dressed for the car ride, and buying my ticket to Europe so I could take the car ride. Then, who knows, maybe I could have remembered the ball.”

Andy Warhol

 

Larry Fink. 'Russian Ball, New York City' 1976

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
Russian Ball, New York City
1976
Silver gelatin print

 

Larry Fink. 'Pat Sabatine's 8th Birthday Party' 1977

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
Pat Sabatine’s 8th Birthday Party
1977
Silver gelatin print

 

Larry Fink. 'Pat Sabatine's 11th Birthday Party' 1980

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
Pat Sabatine’s 11th Birthday Party
1980
Silver gelatin print

 

Larry Fink. 'Skating Rink' 1980

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
Skating Rink
1980
Silver gelatin print

 

 

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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