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The American Wilderness in Monochrome

April 24th, 2013 No Comments

A group of photography ‘experts’ tends to look down on colour as they consider black-and-white as the ‘proppah’ medium for photographic art.  What would they say about images that are neither colour nor black-and-white but both: monochrome prints?

They just might say, “Oh Wow!” if they see stunners like this gorgeous composition in shades of violet and purple, and that would be apropos because “OHWOW” is also the name of the Los Angeles gallery where these photographs are being exhibited. 

“Wonderful Land” is the title of the exhibition and the photographer is David Benjamin Sherry.  His large-sized monochrome prints of the American wilderness bring a new ‘colour’ to the genre of Landscape Photography.  (They are chromogenic prints; chromogenic printing is a type of process.)

One reason for Sherry’s presentation is suggested by Dan Abbe in his photo article in American Photo.  “Given the work of photographers in Group f/64,” Abbe says, “it may be that there’s no longer any meaning to go out and photograph the same subjects using the same black and white process.”  Hence, the “strange hues” and “unexpected colors.”

As with black-and-white, in these tinted monochrome prints the lines, form and structure of the image engage the eye, the so-called ‘distraction’ of colours being eliminated.  At the same time seeing a monochrome print in shades of a hue, often a saturated hue, is a refreshing change in the manner in which a photograph ‘hits’ us.  Sherry’s technique works very well with Landscape Photography whereas it would seem downright contrived – even weird – when applied in other areas, say Wildlife Photography.

While one or two photographs simply substitute shades of a hue instead of shades of grey resulting in what is essentially a tinted print, in others the tint is so spot-on with the landscape and its elements that a hypnotizing, otherworldly atmosphere is generated.  In still others the subject and choice of hue and dynamic range combine to produce an abstract form.

These large-format images are presented as fairly large prints; most measure about nine square feet.  The sheer size would heighten the intensity of these spectacular renditions of the western wilderness for those fortunate enough to see them in L.A.


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