Keith Johnson Photographs


Thinking about grids and extended images.

Falls #4

Why grids? I have been mulling this over for some time now; partly to write a cogent statement about the work and partly to figure out why they are happening at all. I had a long email conversation with Neal Rantoul, a long time user of the grid, about what grids do and, to be sure, his insight helped.

Some historical context first. I began making extended pictures seriously in the early 80s (perhaps even late 70s) but my first extended piece was made in 1971. I still have it in my studio and I can say that beyond the historical context it provides, it is awful. I think that early piece was a result of the book/exhibition by Nathan: “Vision and Expression”. John Wood and my experience at VSW furthered my interest in seeing and thinking beyond the single frame. I think about how frames of film are attached theoretically as well as literally in/about time and this gave basis for my picture making. I also traveled often with Bart Parker whose pictures were extended images within single images by virtue of in-camera collage and then extending those with text and other images. He has always made my head spin around.

Cubist painting gave insight about multiple views. I am not involved with that kind of creation but being able to record views/elevations of front, right center, etc., and see them together was instructional. Much of my early work with extended images was somewhat random and heavy handed, and very literal. Later I learned about typologies (and topologies) to discuss, compare and contrast stuff and conditions.

It seems to me that often when I am attracted to some picture hovering, it is the idea that attracted me. My job as a photographer is to ferret out what that is and then construct/create a compelling visual understanding. The stuff I have been attracted to is interesting as surface or idea or irony but minimal in nature. My involvement with is rarely a single picture but rather 4-8 frames as I attempt to better understand why I stopped in the first place. We speak about bracketing our exposure, our focus, our camera angle. I found I was making a mess of exposures to find or focus on what attracted me in the first place. It is as a result of the contact sheet that the extended pieces evolved, when I would see on the sheet or light table a bunch of related images I could make connections within the connections. The connections reveal the idea of the extended image of the whole being much stronger than the parts.

Then it occurred to me that as the pictures are taken over a period of time, they represent time.  A contact sheet was about the passing of time in a roll of film all connected by the film.  The grids I am working on are about time in the way that film stills are about time.  Connected by the presentation format, and becasue of metadata I know the time that has passed, the interval, and the duration of each frame.  Another layer of meaning.  Additionally the graphic component of what the resultant amalgam of images (often unexpected but invited) and of course the typologic comparison and revealtion.

Comments are closed.


all content © keith johnson 2018