by Alison Perry
I’ve been looking at and thinking about the Metaphysical dimensions in the art of Edward Hopper and Georgio di Chirico. Both artists drew from metaphysics to reconstruct landscapes where space, light, architecture, elongated shadows, people and objects/props were made to correspond to an interior mood. Emotions took center stage so their paintings share an enigmatic quality. Georgio di Chirico’s paintings are from his short-lived but very influential metaphysical period, 1910-1920. They are wholly his own inspiration, are painted in a frank representational style and appear as dreamscape narratives, a remembrance of things past, mostly his early childhood growing up in Volos, Greece where is father worked as a railroad engineer.
Hopper’s narratives correspond to events in his marriage and also rely on daily visual encounters and monumental historical events occurring during his career. Hopper was influenced by Freudian dreamscape psychology, not unlike other Surrealist painters of his era, although he avoided their hyper-real prankishness for the most part. (Think Magritte and Dali.) Sigmund Freud’s widely read: The Interpretation of Dreams, (first published in the USA in 1913), suggested dreams were unconscious desires, thoughts and motivations. A Hopper painting is easily recognized because figures and objects appear in illusionary space, almost as photographic snapshot moments in time, but the mood shifts back and forth between a state of psychological detachment and connectedness, Hopper’s simultaneous conscious and unconscious response, the end result being a dreamlike state of reality.
The dreamscape imagery of di Chirico came to mind when I stumbled upon a vacant warehouse recently because its repetitive windows echo the repetitive archways in di Chirico’s exterior piazza scenes. I took advantage of the landscape objects behind me reflecting and blending well with the interior space as I shot through one of the large multi-paned class windows. I was curious to see how I would like the results, since my primary focus is landscape. Perhaps this was really an exercise in changing things up a bit from shooting the high school series over the summer. I shot though the window with a polarizer to penetrate the glare, which obliterated most of the very bright minor reflections, while leaving the strong dark tree line intact. It added a dream like dimension to the window framing while also obscuring some of the exposed interior skeletal construction. I changed my angle of view resulting in several pleasing images that vary in color, texture and form. After shooting through the window I stayed till after dark to catch elongated shadows spilling onto the exterior paved piazza from the streetlight nearby using my tripod’s shadow as a stand in for me.
I now use Adobe Lightroom, a one-stop control software application that can generally maximize an image in about one-half hour. For both shots I played with color temperature, vibrance, shadow/highlight, luminance and contrast controls, then cropped each image to strengthen the architectural perspective. The color temperature control changes the overall tonal value of an image from warm to cool or cool to warm. Even though the 1st image was made in late afternoon raking light, I decided to play up the cool tones instead. In the 2nd shot I played with temperature and luminance, but gave it a visual punch reminiscent of di Chirico’s earth and sky tones.
The vibrance control was then used to enhance lower-saturated colors. It has less effect on higher-saturated colors so the net effect evens out overall tonal relationships. I used the shadow/highlight control next to dial in mid tones in order to decrease extreme tonal range, a consistent problem in landscape photography. I used both sets of luminance functions; one manipulates saturation, hue and brightness while the other decreases noise in color by smoothing out grain pixels. Contrast control is more often used to increase tonal separation, rather than decrease it. I use it last and sometimes only as a last result to boost an image that for one reason or another continues to lack sufficient tonal separation and because adding contrast in the dark and mid tones will increase the highlights.
Alison Perry owns a Nyack-based photography business that combines architecture, landscape and formal space and strives to make personal art about time and place. Imagery is for sale through her website. She received BFA in Studio Art from SUNY Purchase and a graduate degree in Library Science from Long Island University. Previously, she worked in journalistic and editorial photography for several different national/regional newspapers in NYC, PA and CA. See examples of her work at http://www.alisoperryart.com
- Postcard From New York on NyackNewsAndViews