Transformation – Aaron Siskind

Unit 1: Visual Recording in Art and Design – Criteria P 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

More and more I am finding myself drawn to the theme of Rust, Rot and Decay as previously blogged HERE. Today, as part of our visit to The Shape of Light exhibition at the Tate, One photographer in the surfaces and textures themed room of the exhibition stood out to me as someone who very much encapsulated the type of images I have recently been taking, and considering as an approach for this term, and that is Aaron Siskind. Here’s a quick bio.

Aaron Siskind (December 4, 1903 – February 8, 1991) was an American photographer. He is considered to be closely involved with, if not a part of, the abstract expressionist movement.
Aaron Siskind was born to a Russian-Jewish immigrant family in New York City. The first art forms to catch his interest were poetry and music, which led him to believe he would become a writer. After graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School, Siskind earned his Bachelor of Social Science degree in Literature from the College of the City of New York in 1926 and went on to teach English in the New York City public school system for 21 years.

A camera given as a gift for his wedding to Sidonie Glaller in 1930 galvanized his interest in photography. He was said to have spent much of his honeymoon taking pictures in Bermuda.

“We look at the world and see what we have learned to believe is there. We have been conditioned to expect.. but, as photographers, we must learn to relax our beliefs.”

It was in the 1940s that Siskind’s photographic interests moved away from socially centred, literal documentary works toward the more formal, poetic, conceptual images for which he became internationally renowned. This shift from document to metaphor embodied images of weathered fragments and textured surfaces through which he explored ideas of decay, fragmentation, and regeneration.

He created pictures by closing in on his subjects, framing out distracting elements to enhance the emotional sense and concentrate the viewer on the aspect he found compelling. Later he focused on surfaces to further condense the energies of splashed paint, graffiti marks and crumbling materials. In his later work he focused on natural formations — tree trunks and lava fields — where he isolated expressive figurative forms. Siskind was an explorer of the visual world, and as he travelled he created pictures he hoped would express enduring truths about human experience.

Aaron Siskind found emotional joy and tension in the process of discovering subjects and photographing them. His photographs emphasise the lines, textures and shapes of objects. The photograph on the top is of a wall which has been painted and postered, but Aaron has taken a photograph when both the paint and paper has started to peel off.

The photograph on the underneath is of a brick wall, however he has used an interesting camera angle to capture the surface texture and formation.
I like these photographs as I like the way that Siskind has captured the details of the different surfaces. I also like the way he has used different camera angles to capture more of the surface, having the bottom part focused, and the top blurred using Dof techniques to emphasise the scale. I love how his other photographs show the textures of decayed layers. I have previously taken some similar style images below.

I also have taken a few in the past which I think also look great and very abstract for Nature images. They show the contrast and fragmentation of natural objects in a constant change.

I had started to shoot in a similar way HERE last week in London and Zig said to try a flat surface approach rather than angles or angular surfaces so I will be looking into that this week and whilst away on holiday as I am sure I can find many rusting and decaying surfaces at the coast. As I mentioned above I am increasingly finding my gaze narrowed in on this project to a final theme or potential outcome which is great, and of course has to happen, but I really want to keep a few avenues open for this until I can pare down the idea to a final outcome.

3 thoughts on “Transformation – Aaron Siskind

  1. Pingback: Transformations of Surface. – Lee Tilley Photography

  2. Pingback: Transformations – The final preparation. – Lee Tilley Photography

  3. Pingback: Transformations Final set – Scars – Lee Tilley Photography

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