>>>For the PDF of my book, Élévation, please click here.
To whom it may concern:
Élévation consists of a short text inspired by 325 black-and-white images from my ongoing master photography series, “Untitled: A romantic typology of form.” The full-scale photographs are all 15"x23", macro photographs of plant parts printed on 22”x30” thick matte (Hahnemühle Photo Rag 500gsm) paper and bordered by 3½” white frames.
While the images may seem familiar, they are not easy to identify; this is deliberate on my part, as is the departure from reality that I achieve by magnifying three-inch subjects five times and half-inch subjects 30 times, by restricting my color palette, and by using non-descriptive titles.
The book’s opening photographs– round forms, often set toward the bottom of the frame, which give way to stretched tubular and then progressively complex shapes – recall symbols of and metaphors for animal behavior and human emotion.
I use form to convey external manifestations of mental states, drawing on my undergraduate studies in clinical psychology.
In Untitled #203, for example, the isolation of a sunken sphere suggests withdrawal. In Untitled #295, one stem dances enticingly around another. The tilted Fiddlehead of Untitled #264 peers diffidently, limbs coiled, at the viewer. Similarly, the Gingko Biloba leaf in Untitled #24 stretches seductively along the frame’s vertical edge.
The sharpness of my images – all taken in nature, where plants move constantly at the macro scale – would not have been possible before the advent of the contemporary digital technology. Still, it may take as many as 200 exposures to achieve the photograph.
I take multiple exposures while working towards a photograph that conveys what I have come to see and feel. I am able to do my method of trial and improvement, because of the digital device, LCD screen.
My photography practice is the base for a new photography that I am defining and situating within the Slow Movement, in a three-point manifesto.
Where does my art fit in? I am like a sculptor in that I chisel my backgrounds away (I gradually obscure the background by adjusting the settings on my camera and flash), molding form steadily with light and sharpening areas where I want the eye to focus. However, where Brâncusi used steel tools to sculpt raw matter and express behaviors and emotions, I use a digital camera, macro zoom lens, and flash.
While my high-resolution photographs of plants in nature does build on Edward Weston’s legacy of visual metaphors and further Karl Blossfeldt’s macro photography tradition, it is unlike Bernd and Hilla Becher’s work because I am developing a romantic typology of natural forms in which feeling is perceptible. My aim is to suggest animal behaviors that I perceive and emotions that I feel while making each photograph.
The title of my book was inspired by lines in Baudelaire’s poem of the same name:
Beyond the vast sorrows and all the vexations
That weigh upon our lives and obscure our vision,
Happy is he who can with his vigorous wing
Soar up towards those fields luminous and serene,
He whose thoughts, like skylarks,
Toward the morning sky take flight
— Who hovers over life and understands with ease
The language of flowers and silent things!
You see, I started my “Untitled” series after losing a stressful and time-consuming job as an architect in Manhattan, New York, and burned out, decided to take some time off from architecture to reassess my life choices. Once free from daily deadlines, I began to see and feel my surroundings again and developed the need to step outside and retreat into nature.
The more time I spent outdoors, the more I noticed that plants were speaking not only to the architect in me but also to the pre-med student of my youth, who had been enthralled by the way form follows function in molecular biology. I heal as I make photographs that voice what I feel and need to share.
I hope that my photographs will elevate viewers.
I have written about my artistic process in articles in the Huffington Post – "An artist's perspective on inspiration and making art,” 22 July, 2015; "Art seen through the lens of its architect,” 31 December 2015; and “Art lets me be woman,” 9 January, 2017.
The first two of my three self-published books – Untitled Vol.1 and Untitled Vol.2 – are now in several libraries, including those of the Victoria and Albert Museum, MoMA, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Untitled Vol.3 was self-published a few months ago at CreateSpace.
It is very affirming that many curators, museum directors, art historians, and art dealers around the world now follow me on Instagram (@AnnaAgostonArt).
I would really love to be able to discuss Élévation with you in person and to show you my photographs, which I print in editions of ten archive-quality pigment prints.
Thank you for taking the time to read this long letter! I look forward to your response.
P.S., My full collection of photographs is posted at this blind link (no tab on my website): www.annaagoston.com/collection