A new gallery http://www.philipchudy.com/galleries/household_objects featuring 6 new larger than life banal images.
Broadly conceived as an extension to the Road Kill series from February, which morphed into the Familiar Objects series, the common thread being ‘messing with the viewer’s sense of scale’.
A burned out oven bulb is full of sculptural detail
A grimy work worn lupe helps use see things larger, other than itself.
The way I have been addressing this is by producing extraordinarily high resolution images which have a powerful ‘larger than life’ quality when encountered as large prints. Not only that, the images are laboriously ‘stack processed’ from a huge number of capture files (sometimes 100+). What this means is that depth of field and are many times greater than is possible with any lens/aperture combination. The idea is to represent a small object as it would appear were we, the viewers to be shrunk to, say 2 centimeters tall.
It was technically impossible for anyone to produce images like these just a few years ago. That said – it takes a deal of practical experience to get it to work. And even then, the time required to process a single image is considerable. But I am not doing this merely as a dry technical exercise.
In principle, there is definitely nothing new about the ‘scale thing’. Product photographers, tasked to make imagery of small objects, destined for giant repro on street posters (for example) have long sought to redefine scale using a number or cues. We are wholly familiar with slick scaleless images featuring jewelry, watches, cell phones and so on. A sense scale confusion leads to a sense of ‘larger that life’, which important to advertisers as it enhances the perceived importance of their product. Scale confusion is possible with blemish free product renditions – which is also suits advertisers, for obvious reasons.
Without visual cues such as fingerprints and scratches It is hard to get a really accurate sense of the size of an object. We may know how large a given object is based on familiarity. But we frequently also concede that scaleless product renditions are ‘larger than life’ simply because we are primed to the intention of the people ‘who plastered the image across the side of a building’ .
Coaxing idealized levels of perfection into advertising images to make them ‘scale free’ has long been the task of photographers and retouchers who have gone to extreme lengths to achieve this.
Then came CGI and product prototyping. You might think this presented the perfect solution. Unlimited depth of field bypasses one cue for judging scale in macro photos. Given that we are extremely utilitarian in way we look at small ‘hold in the hand objects’ (rarely scrutinizing them) some feared that CGI would replace photography completely because no one would cross reference what the thing really looks like in the hand.
But CGI proved ‘way too perfect’ by default – and way to time consuming to make ‘imperfect’ to just the right degree. We always need some grime and yuk for a credible proper sense of scale, even if it is a manipulated or warped one.
The cellphones and diamond rings we see on giant street posters are ‘larger than life’ in some senses but the sterility of the image limits things, We accept the intention in good faith, but we never ‘really’ believe the scale and perfection.
My images in this series are full of grime and imperfection on purpose. And yet I choose to feature and contrast objects which have been machined to high levels of precision, as demanded in our modern world. We used to seeing macro nature photos and being awe struck by their raw naturalness – but we are not used to dwelling on images which give mixed signals about technical objects .
We are used to seeing ‘parts of objects’ in macro and micro images, but we are not used to getting a sense of the ‘whole thing’ at the same time. I try to achieve some of that here. We are used to seeing small objects enlarged but we normally view them from a distance. Here I want the viewer to go right up to the print too.
I accept it might be confusing to be presented with all these things in one package. While I accept that my intention in dabbling with scale might be just as bemusing. I hope that exposure to these images goes some way to provoke questions and provide answers.
I can’t say that my only intention in this project is to present a ‘more convincing sense of scale’ than that which we are used to – but it is certainly a large part of it. For me the fascination of seeing the objects anew and as ‘more real’ is sufficient.
But standing back and thinking about the following does make me laugh – the degree to which these images end up being ‘not credible’ in some senses. A sloppy cell phone image would be believed as more genuine a rendition much of the time. What a shame that we have to factor in the disinterest of the viewer in the type of objects to give them credibility. “I don’t give a fig for ‘burned out bulbs’. I just throw them in the trash. If you want to convince me your photos are ‘real’ then don’t bother to be meticulous in your photography”. Taking as much care, the way I have with this series has certainly annoyed one or viewers thus far. Presumably the logic is that I am demonstrating seriously misplaced priorities.
Unfortunately, these images really beg to be seen as large photo prints. They don’t reveal their potential on a regular computer monitor. I have featuring some detail 100% views in the web gallery in the hope that this will compensate for the limitations. It would be interesting to shoot something along these lines for a poster campaign. Coupled with the right concept and seen on posters, it could turn heads and be memorable for one reason or another.