by Alison Perry
The dreamscape imagery of di Chirico, (1888-1978), came to mind when I stumbled upon a vacant warehouse recently – its repetitive windows echoed the repetitive archways in a few of di Chirico’s exterior piazza scenes. This lead me to briefly explore the metaphysical aspects of Edward Hopper’s and Georgio di Chirico’s art, having been a long time fan of Surrealism, that there are similarities between these two artists that are worth exploring. This lead to an experiment with imagery manipulated to achieve a dreamscape quality for the sake of this essay.
Briefly, 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. Many of his paintings from this period were predated by him later on as a means to assert they are wholly his own inspiration, creating suspicion among historians, but regardless, he painted in a frank representational style and his images 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.
Edward Hopper (1882-1967), though not considered a Surrealist painter until more recently, was influenced by Freudian dreamscape psychology, not unlike other Surrealist painters of his era, (although he and di Chirico avoided the hyper-real prankishness of some other artists – think Magritte and Dali.) Sigmund Freud’s timely and widely read: The Interpretation of Dreams, first published in the USA in 1913, suggested dreams were unconscious desires, thoughts and motivations. Hopper’s narrative paintings correspond to events in his marriage and also rely on daily visual encounters and monumental events occurring during his life time. 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 to his inner life and the outer world around him, i.e., a dreaming state of reality.
Having said that, I took advantage of this dream state quality when I photographed the warehouse during the day and later that night. The daytime image shows the landscape objects behind me reflecting and blending well with the interior space. I shot through one of the large multi-paned class windows with a polarizer to penetrate the glare. This obliterated most of the very bright window reflections, but obscured much of the interior skeletal construction, while leaving the overhead tree line intact. After shooting through the window, I stayed till after dark to shoot the parking lot or plaza. Elongated shadows spilling onto the paved surface were cause by the bright streetlight nearby. The shadow of my tripod represents me.
I now use Adobe Lightroom, a digital manipulation software application that can maximize an image in about one-half hour, if you’re in a rush. 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 and darken the shadows to make it seem later than it was.
Lightening the 2nd shot considerably, I then played with temperature and luminance controls. Together they gave the image a visual punch reminiscent of di Chirico’s contrasty style and effectively brought the earth and sky tones closer in line with his. The vibrance control helped enhance less saturated colors while evening out overall tonal relationships. I played with the shadow and highlight controls to dial in mid tones, thereby decreasing the extreme tonal range. I used both sets of luminance functions; one manipulates saturation, hue and brightness, while the other decreases color noise by smoothing out pixelation. I used the contrast control last to boost the image a tad bit further. This gave it that extreme contrast employed by both artists, but especially Georgio di Chirico.
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 alisonperry.photoshelter.com/index
- Postcard From New York on NyackNewsAndViews