Disquieting Angel

Tohono Angel

The beginning of a project I’ve had in mind for a long time: roadside shrines.

I deliberately processed this image to have some disquieting characteristics. People at print night last night called me out on several of them, so I guess I succeeded.

3 thoughts on “Disquieting Angel

  1. Hi, Evan. After shooting these for a while and reviewing my images, I’m wondering if there’s supposed to be a journalistic approach here, or an artist’s interpretation. In all the memorials I’ve seen and photographed, the important thing was getting the name in there. In every last one of them. But there’s nothing here. Makes me think this is art. Your lighting … I can’t figure it out, but it looks manipulated. And overall, it has the artist’s studied sensibility guiding it (what is the function of the black loop on the angel?). [Exception: I have not seen names on two of my pieces, but the physical conditions have prevented that]. And why is your work B&W? Because that lends a journalistic credence? Or because art is often B&W?
    So, without making any judgement, do you want to show the memorial as art? Then I suggest you take it to another, more artistic level. Or do you want to show this from a shooter’s perspective? Then I would ask you to reflect some of the desperation of the people who put these up (rawness and authenticity, and provide a name for sure, and what about the sense of a planned haste? It really does show up in the work … not as bad work, but you can feel the urgency).
    I do continue to believe, as you seem to, that either the art or a shooter’s perspective would provide tremendous opportunity. I would like to see a dedication to and consideration of one side or the other.
    Thanks. Interesting subject matter.

    • This particular shrine lacked ID, as did several others on the road. At least one had some now illegible text scraped into the concrete which I _assume_ was ID, but others appear to have lacked it completely, while some had well thought out and executed identifying information well attached. Some (and this may or may not come out in future images) had remnants of older shrine implementations under, around, or near the current shrines.

      I believe the black loop is now holding up the flowers behind the angel’s head, or previously held something there.

      I suppose it’s possible that the un-identified “shrines” are art installations rather than shrines, per se, but I’d prefer to think of them a memorials to someone known by the builder, but who remains unknown to the great majority of passers-by. It’s the romantic in me :-).

      My intent? Originally I was just thinking about collecting a body of work consisting of roadside shrines, and I am doing that. I doubt I’ll ever create a book or exhibition, it’s just a theme to return to again and again, like rest areas. But since there is no central theme or plan except the body of work, each individual image gets processed and presented uniquely — at least until I perceive or develop an overarching theme.

      This image asked to be in black and white. I often find that images made in harsh light do that to me. It’s not photojournalistic in any way shape or form. I’ve done that and this isn’t it.

      The image is heavily burned to generate the high contrast and exposed carefully to just barely not blow out the high key in the cross (in the print, the paper texture almost but not quite hides the grain detail under the bright white paint of the crossbar). I added some of the clutter around the shrine during the shoot (there’s nothing added or removed digitally in this image) and deliberately crossed some of the edges (and put items close to the edges but not crossing them) to help the eye try to move in and out of the frame once it moves away from the bright central element. The heavily burned sky adds visual weight to the top of the image, which adds to the general unease of the composition.

      Although I’m not a Whovian, I think my interpretation may have been affected by online discussions I’ve seen about the weeping angels.

      Thanks for the input.

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