Tuesday, June 26, 2007
David Mendelsohn - The Complexity Of Simplicity
David Mendelsohn is modern photography's John Henry, locked in a battle to keep image processing from completely dominating the creative process of taking a picture
IMAGES 1 & 2: “These images show the before and after of painting the iron and the board, simply a matter of using a flathead screwdriver and a butter knife to pry the thing apart and spray paint the pieces,” says David Mendelsohn.
“As I count them, 10 elements were deconstructed. Two coats of spray paint and a little five-minute epoxy later, and our model was out of makeup and ready to roll.”
IMAGE 3: A complicated rig of monofilament line, spray paint, spring clips and gaffer's tape puts the algorithmic complexities of Photoshop to shame. “To my mind, surrealism has nothing to do with the amount of information within any given frame. Rather, the school is charged with conveying a dreamlike state. Often, dreams influence my images, but it's nothing that was remotely intentional. It's just the way I see things.”
IMAGE 4: PT Sullivan, Mendelsohn's esteemed assistant, hangs the “unit,” as it came to be called, on a monofilament line. Mendelsohn's well-used Bogen tripods offered the support and anchoring for the iron, giving the iron, despite the stasis, a feel of being thrown through the air.
IMAGE 5: The paparazzi hounded Mendelsohn and Sullivan throughout the production. To get the lighting they needed, Mendelsohn powered strobes off of a voltage inverter, clipped to the battery of his Jeep®. They used a brick leaned against the accelerator pad to inch up the engine's RPMs.
IMAGE 6: “We shot some variations with the ironing board, but it was only there as a potential prop, to be used if we had time.” The most intensive aspect to the shoot was waiting for a sky full of the right clouds. And Mendelsohn needed to shoot in an area unfettered by distracting trees or background.
IMAGE 7: The twirling electrical tail of the iron intensifies the illusion of gravitational pull and velocity. “The wire took a little bit more thought. I needed to find something that would have memory enough to retain the coiled look once in place. After a few low-tech failures, I pulled the cable from the back of the office television. After some more paint, we wrapped it around an aluminum can, applied a heat gun, and bingo! We were in business.”
IMAGE 8: Small changes can make a big difference in design. Moving an object in Photoshop may give correct placement, but the subtleties of shading, dimension and presence aren't as easy to manipulate. “To my eye, the difference is pretty distinct. One fails while the other succeeds. It's a visceral reaction, and I suppose I really can't define why, but objects in space feel more comfortable closer to the bottom of a frame.”
FINISHED IMAGE: “Flying Iron”—the final horizontal image and its real-world feel. “I think that the simplest images are the most powerful. I just enjoy making the process fairly easy. I gravitate toward the crisp and clean, and I tend to redecorate the world with a minimalist's compulsion. I subtract rather than add, and that tendency has definitely been carried over to my workflow.”
Nikon D2Xs, 17-55mm ƒ/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor
To see more of David Mendelsohn's photography, visit www.davidm.com.
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