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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Parish Kohanim: Light And Form

Parish Kohanim continues his lifelong fascination with the indefinable beauty of imagery

This Article Features Photo Zoom

A Black-And-White Issue
Though he has been shooting black-and-white since the beginning of his career, Kohanim is known for his incredible work with color, so it’s with some surprise that he chose principally to use black-and-white for this project. The stripped-down nature of black-and-white is far more minimalist and far less distracting as a medium than color, and one of Kohanim’s choices from the beginning was to step out of the way as a photographer to let the performers and their bodies and forms speak for themselves. This meant eliminating showy techniques.

“For this assignment and for this book, black-and-white just made so much sense,” he says. “As much as I love color, there’s something about black-and-white that has a special place. I think that shape becomes more pronounced, and it’s just a more pure form. It’s very rich and opulent. It’s lush with tonalities and luminosity and so on. There’s also something to your imagination when you strip all of the colors away, and you’re only dealing with blacks and whites and grays. I think black-and-white has a mystical quality, an enigmatic quality, while color can defeat the impact of my message.”

Kohanim is an Apple advisory board member and a fan. He uses Aperture primarily for conversions, sometimes bringing the images into Photoshop. He has spent a great deal of his life around the chemicals of the darkroom, which has given him a great eye for what will work in black-and-white and what will not. Kohanim also has chosen a minimalist background for the setting, noting that you can “say a lot by using so little.” The luminescent skin tones of the performers are juxtaposed against a deep black background that he says is a lot like a “black hole” for light, so he needs to bombard the image with a lot of illumination, creating an ethereal rim-lighting quality.

The stage for the performers is minimal, and at the same time, full of metaphorical meaning. The acrobats balance on a globe that has been lit from within. The globe glows beneath the feet of the performers, who achieve amazing feats of balance while the whole setup is in understated contrast to the background. Kohanim likens the globe as a simile for the spherical planet on which we find ourselves living, and also points out that it’s a nice graphical element for photos in which he’s dealing almost purely with form.

“What I really want to show is not any photographic techniques,” explains Kohanim. “It’s really not about anything that I do photographically, not to minimize myself. I spend a lot of time getting the lighting right and all that, but it’s really about them and what they do in front of the camera that I want to capture. It’s the form that’s the art. I can’t imagine embellishing that with anything else but just a simple background. Anything else would deter the viewer’s attention from what we’re trying to say.”

Keeping Busy
The Luminosa project is near completion, but as of this writing Kohanim is on hiatus while his lead performer is doing a six-month stint in Malaysia. Once he gets back, they have a few more shoots to do, and then he begins the process of putting the book together and getting it produced. Immediately thereafter, Kohanim plans on beginning a sequel, which he says may involve more of the natural world as a new concept for the backgrounds. In the meantime, he has no end of fine-art concepts that he’d like to explore in between commercial assignments.

“What an incredible salvation or refuge to go, especially with this project,” Kohanim says about his work. “We can really put all thoughts to rest and work through the heart and spirit to come up with something that’s a little more interesting, more from the inner soul. That’s what the performers do when they come to perform for us, and even though we don’t know what we’re going to end up with, we just keep trying and trying and trying until the unexpected magic happens. And when it happens, it’s just so gratifying.”

Concludes Kohanim, “I think there’s a deeper connection when you’re in that realm. I think I read a quote that said, ‘Great art is a silent dialogue that is from the inner soul.’ What’s more true than that? I think that’s the great message of photography and art. The quiet message that you’re trying to portray is that it’s beyond words.”

To see more of Parish Kohanim’s photography, visit www.parishkohanim.com.


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