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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

David Mendelsohn - It Takes Imagination

Digital and film, black-and-white and color, personal and commercial—these are the facets of David Mendelsohn's persona as a photographer

It Takes Imagination Visit David Mendelsohn's website and you're greeted with a seemingly simple choice. Would you like to see his personal work or the commercial images he's paid to create? Choose the first and you're taken into a world of desaturation: black-and-white and sepia tones dominate this collection of mostly human forms. Choose the latter and you're greeted with the polar opposite: a bold color palette and striking compositions of the unusual and the everyday—all vivid in every sense of the word. Then you ask yourself: Could these two distinct bodies of work possibly come from the same photographer?

Those disparate styles are what make Mendelsohn such an interesting shooter. He's a body of boundless photographic energy, coupled, of course, with creative ambition and savvy business sense.

Further, Mendelsohn's personal and commercial work weave together in a tapestry of digital and film images, the actual equipment serving as a conduit to bring his vision to the surface. At the core of it all is this concept of creativity. If you didn't know better, you might think Mendelsohn suffered from multiple personalities that complement the highly varied areas of his work. Although the separation between his styles in black-and-white and color may be obvious to an outsider, for the photographer, those distinctions are practically worthless.

“You aren't the first to observe some distinction between my color and black-and-white work,” explains Mendelsohn. “I suppose I may suffer from some form of MPD: multiple photographic disorder. Although they're admittedly different mediums, I find it rather difficult to distinguish between the two.

“I try not to define anything to a great degree,” he continues. “To herd things into categories contradicts all the possibilities of an open mind. As such, I can't sum up who I am by what I do at any given moment—or, in fact, who sees or publishes my work.”

What unifies Mendelsohn's work is an obvious love for the graphic power of simplicity. Perhaps it's a holdover from his previous career in graphic design. No matter what body of his work you're viewing, it's undoubtedly marked by his tendency toward simplification and, more often, subtle photographic abstraction.

After all, he says, “What could be more abstract than black-and-white?” Answering his own question with his images, though, Mendelsohn shows that color can be just as abstract.

Buoyed by color, he manages to create a similar feeling of black-and-white abstraction even when his images overflow with color. To accomplish this, he tends to go for saturation and amplification—methods that achieve the same inherently graphical power caused by viewing the world in black-and-white.

“I want to make things obvious,” says Mendelsohn. “And in the world of color, that gets interpreted in boldness. Nothing is really implied. Boom! Visual explosion. There it is.”

Whether the subject is a broom, a leg, a flower or an umbrella, Mendelsohn leaves no doubt as to what he'd like you to see in his photographs. Beyond simplistic renditions of everyday things, he manages to make his images simultaneously obvious and cryptic, overtly bold, as well as worthy of exploration. In other words, the visual explosion grabs your attention and the careful exploration reveals the story. That's the true mastery that Mendelsohn brings to every image he creates.


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