Seriously though. Cubist photography. Is it possible? Or is it just a mere rip-off of Cubist painting? I have been thinking about this for a while. Since 1997, actually. That’s when I first became interested in Cubism. But not in its fine arts form. I have never held much interest in the likes of Picasso or Juan Gris. Quite frankly, I never found the Cubist portraits that they produced particularly visually pleasing. That is entirely subjective and individual point of view – I do accept that their art was ground-breaking, original and highly aesthetisized. I just personally would not hang a Cubist painting á la Picasso in my sitting room. It was the Cubist architecture in Prague that actually got me to reconsider. It sounds impossible – how can you break the laws of perspective with a three-dimensional edifice? The buildings are of course conventional in the sense that they are habitable spaces with floors, doors, windows – but the decorative elements are strangely and definitely modern with windows in rhombus shape, rather bulky decorated doorways and pillars, all protruding from the facades and thereby enabling a different shape/view of the building from different perspectives.
I have the good fortune to work in a house that was once the workplace of a Cubist artist, however, and her work has always appealed to me. Mainie Jellett was the first Cubist painter in the British Isles. Despite a rather conventional background, the unmarried artist was able to study in Paris with the likes of Albert Gleizes and André Lhote. Her work is less representational than Picasso’s and based on a stringent theory of shape, light, colour and movement. The abstract quality of it with shifting shapes is what fascinates me, and I have made attempts at recreating that in photography. (See my blogpost here.) But I never got into it because it involves too much Photoshop for my liking.
As I was arsing around with my iPhone today, looking for a suitable picture for my still on-going 365 project (now in its second year), I happened to point it at a disco ball. And this is the result:
This is much more like what I would consider Cubist photography: Straight lines breaking up parts of the image into facets. Together the facets do not represent a seamless bigger picture, but mirror reality broken into pieces. In a way that looks like David Hockney’s photo collages, without being broken into individual photographs. That appeals very much to my laziness. *coughs*
Is there meat in this? Could this be turned into something? For starters, the problem is the obvious presence of the camera in the shot. Could that be avoided by use of a LF camera, for instance, which is able to “shoot around the corner” so to speak? Or is it necessarily a bad thing if the camera appears in-shot, anyway? Isn’t the camera part of the reality that is being represented in the shot – one facet of many?
I am intrigued. I may have to play with this.