Fractured Reality of Cubist Photography
The cubist montages are my foray into cubist photography. The idea came from a multitude of sources – mirror tiled walls of a dinner theatre in Montreal where I was the lighting designer for the now long defunct “Les Masques” dinner theatre. I have always been drawn to Picasso’s work, and the Polaroids of David Hockney. The dinner theatre was tiled with small 1 inch square mirrors. The broken reflections were hypnotizing -it was fascinating how “reality” fractured in the uneven surface of the mirrors. The reflections gave brief glimpses reminiscent of Picasso and Braques’ Cubist paintings.
Every act of construction is an act of destruction.
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I started with shooting still lifes The first trial method was taking multiple images, cutting apart the prints and pasting pieces back together. While the results were moderately successful, I constantly kept looking for the crayons and developed a severe cookies and milk dependancy. The only way to make duplicate images was to rephotograph the original. I used the same method when invited to take images of a building under construction in Montreal. I re-photographed the resulting collage to ‘flatten out’ the uneven surface caused by gluing the many layers. The results were well received in the ensuing exhibition, but I was not pleased with the technique. David Hockney was using multiple Polaroids and not overlapping the individual pieces in his “joiners”. Hockney’s technique was ideally suited to Polaroid film. I am a big fan of Hockney’s work, and made many attempts to interpret his “joiners” using conventional film, in order to make multiple copies of final images. In the next attempt I decided to reproduce how I first came to see the images. I shot the reflections in mirrors, using a variety of differently shaped mirrors attached to different surfaces ranging from canvas to masonite board using a variety of “tricks” in order to make the pieces moveable and reusable. The results were only moderately successful, the only positive result being that I became pretty proficient at accurately cutting mirrors. Over the years I had made many attempts all falling short of what I wanted. I even attempted trying to shoot mutliple exposures by in-camera masking in both 35mm and 4X5 formats. Taking a cue from Jerry Uelsman, I tried assembling the many images I needed in the darkroom, but that too created it’s own set of problems and disappointments. Cutting and gluing bits of chopped up 4X5 negs opened up new headaches – literally but more so from the glue! Flash forward to 2001, and I found myself in possession of an early model digital camera which turned out to be an electronic disappointment that managed to chew through AA batteries as if I were the only stockholder in Duracell. In order to rationalize the camera, I needed to find something to do with it despite lacking basic features necessary to make it viable for any commercial work. The image size was a major issue, barely yielding a 4X6 inch sized images at 300 pixel per inch.. What if I could stitch together several images ? I began experimented by combining several images, and quickly saw the potential when manipulated through Photoshop to create Cubist Photography images.
The first successful digital cubist photo success was a Yamaha Classical Guitar, propped up against a radiator at shared studio on St-Laurent Blvd in the Plateau area of Montreal. The various parts of the image were photographed from different angles and then all the images were reassembled in Photoshop. I shot several images with that camera, until an ex-friend broke it just days before he vanished with a few thousand dollars of studio equipment. I soon afterward started shooting the montages with a Canon d60 then the 10d, followed by a 20d and onto the 5D’s. The technique is now second nature, and relies on multiple images of a scene or subject taken fro a variety of different angles to optimize the desired result. The images have become larger with each new camera generation. To date the largest image I have created is in the range of 3 meters by 10 meters with some 300 pieces.