This text and the accompanying photos are taken from Judith B. Herman’s article of January 29, 2013 that appears in Slate.com.
All photos are copyright by Aline Smithson.
Aline Smithson loves garage sales. When a single weekend of scavenging yielded a print of the famous 19th-century painting by James McNeill Whistler’s “Arrangement in Grey and Black Portrait of the Artist’s Mother,” a leopard coat and hat, a 1950s cat painting, and a chair just like the one in Whistler’s painting, something clicked. Her years of art education, fashion editing, and honing her darkroom skills, plus her sense of nostalgia, love of family, and wacky sense of humor all came together to produce what Smithson calls “the series that put me on the map.”
Over a period of two years, her mother, who was in her mid-80s, sat erect in the “Whistler chair,” presenting her left profile and a perfect deadpan expression in front of Smithson’s lime green garage door for 20 versions of “Arrangement in Green and Black, Portraits of the Photographer’s Mother.” Instead of Anna Whistler’s voluminous black Victorian dress and white lace cap, Katrine Kleihauer Smithson is decked out in get-ups such as a grass skirt and a safari suit. Smithson scoured thrift stores and eBay for costumes and bad paintings with matching themes.
By Jim McKinniss
Bob has been in the design and advertising business for over 35 years, as an art director, graphic designer and creative director. What I’ve always known all these years is that hetruly love photography. He loves seeing it–he loves doing it.
Since his early days at the Art Center, when he took his first photography course, learning not just the concept and science of photography, but the art of printing as well, he found something he could do for the rest of his life. He has also worked with many excellent and gifted photographers creating thousands of images for a variety of clients, but always striving, when appropriate, to transcend commercial photography and take the work to a higher level; or at least make it some of the best photography out there, which it often was. Of course that didn’t always happen, which is the pesky thing about working with clients.
Left to his own devices now, he can achieve his vision his way. His experience in graphic design and the graphic arts–art directing, editing, and reproducing commercial and fine art photography–enables him to enhance that vision. He imbues the images he captures with clarity and style that enhances the reality of the subjects by inviting the viewer to see not only incredible detail, but also the grace of the subject as a whole.xx
As some of nature’s most varied and quietly spectacular output, flowers, as well as other perhaps more mundane, but no less interesting, bits of the plant world, provide endless detail and visual intrigue. The closer he gets, the more amazed he is. He’s constantly surprised at the unexpected—be it the point of view or the specimen itself. As with most natural photography, this is more discovery than invention.
Focusing on these subjects in extreme close up reveals incredible details. Some of these revelations are surprising if not downright astonishing. Many seem foreign, even other-worldly. However, the nature of this world at this level is truly spectacular. And seeing this is a revelation for me as it is for most people.
I try to capture and convey more than just botanical minutiae; he also appreciates the graphic form and structure. Gesture and a sense of life or movement, are also qualities that he finds, which can allow the subject some personality, attitude, and most of all character. This work is more akin to portraiture than still life.
Aging gracefully is a recurring theme in many of these images as well. The perfect flower, in all its perky glamour, is stunning. However, a flower or some other bit of flora past its prime, is yet another state of grace. The elegance of decay and the transformation of age are what intrigue him the most.
These images are captured at a very high resolution that provides not only incredible detail but astonishing color and depth. The lighting is very soft and is elegant in its simplicity and focus—that which is closest to us is both brighter and sharper which heightens the sense of depth.
All photos shown are copyright by Bob Francis.
Visit Bob at the ArtCapitol boot SA-102 at PhotoLA in the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium January 17-21
By Jim McKinniss
Photo copyright by Chris McCaw
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By Jim McKinniss