Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Follows Shadowlife

27
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Density’ by Andrew Follows, curated by Dr Marcus Bunyan, at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond

Exhibition dates: 27th August – 21st September 2013

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A wonderful exhibition by vision impaired photographer Andrew Follows at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond. It has been a real pleasure to mentor Andrew over the past year and to see the fruits of our labour is incredibly satisfying. The images are strong, elemental, atmospheric, immersive. Due to the nature of Andrew’s tunnel vision there are hardly any traditional vanishing points within the images, instead the ‘plane of existence’ envelops you and draws you in.

Well done to everyone involved with the project. I would particularly like to thank Fiona Cook from Arts Access Victoria for keeping the project on track; the amazing Darren from CPL Digital for his most excellent efforts to print the almost impossible print; Jondi Keane from Deakin University for opening the exhibition; Anna Briers for writing a wonderful catalogue essay; and Anita Traverso for believing in me and giving Andrew an exhibition when many wouldn’t. Many thankx and respect to all.

Now onto the next project!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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The photographs below appear in the order they are in the exhibition. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Density n.

The degree of optical opacity of a medium or material, as of a photographic negative;

Thickness of consistency;

Complexity of structure or content.

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Andrew Follows. 'Elevation, Doreen' 213

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Andrew Follows
Elevation, Doreen
213
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Number 31, Eltham' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Number 31, Eltham
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Green, Montsalvat' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Green, Montsalvat
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Shadowlife' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Shadowlife
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Garland, South Melbourne' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Garland, South Melbourne
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
40 cm x 27 cm

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dark-trees-WEB

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Andrew Follows
Indigo, Edenvale
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm

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The Mind’s Eye: Density in the Work of Andrew Follows

Anna Briers

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Seeing has never been about the simple act of looking. It can be defined by the parameters of our past experience and cognitive stock, factors which enable, inhibit and shape our perceptive abilities. Ultimately, our ways of seeing are affected by our learnt cultural assumptions about the universe.1

Cultural theorist James Elkins has said, ‘blindness is not the opposite of vision, but it’s constant companion, and even the foundation of seeing itself.’2 In his seminal text The Object Stares Back, Elkins illustrates that we are blind to the limits of our own vision and that this unknowingness about our visual fallibilities is crucial to ordinary seeing. This blindness relates to a hierarchy of vision, defined not only by our psychological limitations but our physiological ones as well – the selection process that we employ to filter the vast proliferating output of information that we are inundated with on a daily basis. Without which, we would probably experience a kind of cerebral meltdown.

If vision is dependent on a certain amount of blindness, then by extension the notion that a photographic image can accurately document the truth is a misconception. The camera is not simply a black box that can correctly capture a quotation of reality, a machine of ‘logic and light’,3 for the act of taking a photograph is reliant on the careful selection and framing of a particular object or subject. The result of this point of view is the depiction of a subjective reality at the exclusion of everything else which is made invisible: eliminated by the perimeters of the frame.

In this context, it is interesting to consider the work of legally blind photographer Andrew Follows. Follows has a degenerative condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) that has rendered one eye completely blind with ever diminishing tunnel vision in the other. Follows can perceive three meters ahead, albeit through an obscuring haze. The clarity of his vision is dependent on lighting and various environmental factors; objects are often more perceptible at night. Whilst form and structure are apparent, he cannot see the intricate tonal details of a stained glass window. He cannot know that the colour of your scarf is royal blue. All this changes however, when Follows observes light flooding through the lens of a camera.

Through the small rectangular viewing panel on the reverse of a digital camera, Follows’ world is revealed. He is able to discern architectural detail and the vibrancy of nature; he is able to know that his favourite shade in the vast tonal spectrum is royal blue. In a realisation of Marshall McLuhan’s notion of the camera as a prosthetic extension,4 Follows’ camera extends his sight, and through it he is able to capture his unique vision, for a moment or for a millennia, a physical expression of the imaginings of his mind’s eye.

Curated by Dr Marcus Bunyan, the concept of Density was envisaged as a point of departure to explore the manifold variations and subsequent ruminations on the term as it relates to Follows’ perspective. As a technical descriptive, density explains the degree of optical opacity within a photographic negative. Portions of film that have been exposed to greater amounts of light yield a greater deposit of reduced silver. This is referred to as having a higher density than areas of shadow.5

Density also denotes a thickness of consistency and many of Follows’ works exhibit a complexity of compositional structure and content that elucidates the nature of Follows’ perception. ‘Even in the physicality of my vision, these photographs have a certain feeling that reflects my relationship to the world and how I visualise it.’6 A thematic constant that binds this series together is the shallow depth of field that is combined with a sense of the frame or the foreground being the view. Follows’ images, and therefore our view into his world is a restricted one. As the viewer we must frequently gaze through a kind of haze or obstruction in order to participate.

A pivotal example of this is Elevation, Doreen, 2013, where the composition is segmented by the skeletal structure of the wooden and steel supports of a building. Intersecting diagonals and verticals delineate and contain space across the picture plane, framing the mid-ground and background within its architecture. It is not the vista that is of interest to Follows.

This image cannot escape the requisite art historic parallels with movements such as the Russian Constructivists or De Stijl with its ‘Mondrian-esque’ all over composition. However the image speaks of interiority, its emphasis is on the foreground and by drawing our attention to the mechanics of how the view is framed we are made conscious of the act of seeing. There is a layering or doubling that occurs here: Follows makes us aware of the limitations of our own vision, through the act of looking – by revealing his unique vision, as a result of partial blindness.

Similarly, Void, Eltham, 2013, leaves us grasping for some semblance of illumination and visual clarity within a desolate and dimly lit car park. While our eye is guided across the picture plane by white lines and columns that recede into space, our view is ultimately obstructed by a concrete barrier covered in territorial markings and thus, we are reminded of the limitations of our own vision as we are left to gaze into the dense abyss.

A thematic constant in Follows’ images such as No. 31 Eltham, 2013, is that they resist a singular point of perspective as evidenced by early Renaissance painters where everything was centred on the eye of the beholder; the visible world arranged for the spectator as the universe was once thought to be arranged for God.7 By contrast, many photos evidence a planar sense of spatiality. Often lacking in a noticeable vanishing point, his images have an immersive potential and we are drawn into the various densities within Follows’ shallow depth of field. This is exemplified by the rich textures of Scarp face, Beechworth, 2013, and the lush grassland depicted in Green, Montsalvat, 2013.

Many of the photographs in Density instill a quiet contemplative mood that is partially evoked by a muted tonal palette. Yet within this visionary series the viewer can also bear witness to the reoccurrence of otherworldly imagery, as well as transient and transformational spaces. This sense is further enhanced by the fact that Follows’ photographs are often shot at times when the light is fleeting, on the interstice of night and day. This is exemplified by Green on Blue, 2013, where Follows captures a train in motion, conveying a temporality and flux that eloquently describes a state of transience: of being between spaces, neither here nor there.

With Judges Chair, Beechworth, 2013, Follows conveys the courtroom where infamous Australian Bushranger Ned Kelly was committed to stand trial for murder, prior to his eventual hanging in 1880. The image pervades an institutional formality that is intensified by a classically balanced composition, combined with ominous historical undertones. Yet the space depicted is interrupted by the glimmer of an ethereal light that bolts across the far wall, puncturing the image. Alternative possibilities become illuminated and a sense of otherworldliness becomes palpable.

Hillock No’s 1-3, Windsor, conveys the everyday subject matter of a BMX bike park. Photographed at night utilising the urban ambience of streetlights, the mounds of earth are lit by unearthly glow. Under the gaze of Andrew Follows, the site is infused with an eerie quality. No longer a metropolitan playground, it resembles the desertous territories of an alien landscape, perhaps on some other planetary body or far distant moon.

As Elkins said, blindness is not the opposite of sight, but it’s constant companion. It is therefore, not sight that is required to take a great photograph – it is vision. By using the camera as a prosthetic extension through which he is able to perceive and frame the universe, Follows’ photographs expound the limitations and fallibilities of our own ways of seeing. Moreover, he is able to reveal to us the uniqueness of his subjective view – forged from the rich imaginings of his mind’s eye.

Anna Briers independent writer and curator, Melbourne 2013

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Endnotes

1. Berger, John. Ways of seeing: based on the BBC television series. London: British Broadcasting Corporation; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972, p. 11.

2. Elkins, James. The object stares back: on the nature of seeing. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.

3. Elkins, James. What photography is. New York: Routledge, 2011

4. McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding media: the extensions of man. London: Routledge, 2001. p. 210.

5. Adams, Ansel. The negative: exposure and development. Hastings-on-Hudson, N. Y.: Morgan & Morgan, 1968.

6. Quote drawn from artist’s statement.

7. Berger, Op. cit., p. 16.

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Andrew Follows. 'Green on blue' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Green on blue
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
157.3 cm x 86.5 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Scarp face, Beechworth' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Scarp face, Beechworth
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
30 cm x 30 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Judge's Chair, Beechworth' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Judge’s Chair, Beechworth
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
90 cm x 60 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Void, Eltham' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Void, Eltham
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
90 cm x 60 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Hillock No.1, Windsor' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Hillock No.1, Windsor
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Hillock No.2, Windsor' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Hillock No.2, Windsor
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Hillock No.3, Windsor' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Hillock No.3, Windsor
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Torso, Eltham' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Torso, Eltham
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
14 cm x 20 cm

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Density Logos

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Anita Traverso Gallery
7, Albert Street
Richmond, Vic 3121

Opening hours:
Wed – Sat 11 – 5

Anita Traverso Gallery website

Andrew Follow website

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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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