Experimental - NOMINEE: Leon Syfrit
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I make still life photographs of blown out tires I find on the highway. My artistic involvement is within the realm of constructed reality because the tires are photographed outside their original context, and I manipulate the arrangement of the tires to fit my creative ideas. My intent is to make images of tires, in a visually fresh and engaging manner, which encourages viewers to experience a typically mundane object from a new perspective. My photographs are intended for a broad audience, and can be appreciated simply for the way they look, or for their deeper conceptual intrigue. Due to my original attraction to, and emphasis on, the visual characteristics of my photographed tires, this work falls within the realm of medium based concept and form based subject matter. However, my images of tires assume a striking resemblance to human gesture, body language, and organic matter, which provides a compelling secondary linguistic, expressive subject element. Ultimately, my project is weighted 55/45 in favor of medium based concept. My intended outcome is both experiential and reflective. Viewing my photographs provides a “perceptual, visual, and aesthetic experience,” and thinking about the similarities that the tires share with human beings creates pause for reflection. The curiosity of seeing what a picture of a blown out tire looks like, and the idea of distilling maximum visual interest and conceptual meaning, with as few objects as possible, influenced me to attempt this project. Irving Penn’s pictures of cigarette butts, and Edward Weston’s images of peppers were instructive for this body of work.
Photography is my chosen medium because it engages both my creative desires and my technical and mechanical curiosities. I use the elements of flatness, frame, focus, vantage point, significant detail, and light to showcase the sculptural quality and visual characteristics of tires. These elements work together to permeate my pictures with personal subjectivity by providing a unique vision of blown out tires and an expressive feeling of human movement. Although my subject matter is placed in the center of the frame, sometimes it engages the edges of the picture frame, which establishes an exciting dance between active and passive framing. The use of a black background contributes to a feeling of flatness, and the three-dimensional, sculptural quality of the tires hints at illusionary space. A feeling of still time contrasts with a sensation of the whimsical movement of tires. Sharp focus ensures that the tires are depicted well so viewers can see as much detail as possible. Since we are used to seeing sculptures presented on a column, the use of this element helps suggest that I want to highlight the sculptural character of tires. And, since many times, we see sculptures of human beings exhibited on a column, using this object in my pictures helps imply that the photographs of tires resemble human gestures, or body language. The relatively large size of the tires (in relation to the frame), along with the black background, the column, and center-frame placement, confront the viewer with my subject matter. I used a Canon 5D Mark II camera for this project. My camera was placed on a tripod, and I used a 24mm – 104mm lens set at f22. The capacity to zoom in and out helped maintain consistent framing without the necessity of actually moving my tripod, and an aperture setting of f22 guaranteed ample depth of field to achieve crisp focus throughout my pictures. Focus was sharp to capture as much detail as possible, and the vantage point is directly in front of the viewer. Strobe lights provided even lighting to accentuate surface detail, and the pictures are black and white to draw attention to the overall form of the subject matter. Each picture is titled with the location the tire was found. I shot this assignment digitally and processed the pictures using Photoshop. Shooting digitally enabled me to receive immediate visual feedback about lighting my subject matter, which was crucial due to the challenging nature of illuminating objects that were both extremely dark and highly reflective.
I am a visual artist, based in Las Vegas, NV. My work uses photography, sculpture, and painting to reclaim, repurpose, and reinvent found objects. I also enjoy alternative photographic processes and restoring and preserving vintage photographs and negatives. My Art has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is included in several permanent collections including the Philadelphia History Museum, the University of the Arts Teaching Print Collection, and Dark Room Gallery in Vermont. In 2014, I was a Delaware Division of the Arts Grant recipient; in 2018, my work was selected by several competitions including the Sony World Photography Competition, the Prix De La Photographie Paris Awards, and the Moscow International Photography Awards. My images have been published in such magazines as Adore Noir, Monovisions, and Private Photo Review. Prior to relocating to Las Vegas, Nevada in 2016, I taught photography at the Delaware College of Art and Design in my home town of Wilmington, Delaware. I hold a BFA in photography from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and an AFA in photography from the Delaware College of Art and Design in Wilmington, Delaware.