plant, 1999, Munich

One of my favourite studies in composition, light and movement. For me this work stands for itself regarding its unique, somehow iconic quality and the precious experience while making this image.

The specific quality of »plant« from my perspective, regarding composition and lucidity, has always been kind of a reference for my other works, as I do understand coherence regarding the relationship between composition and concept as a central element for my approach. I have been always very sceptical and careful regarding a shallowness of quality in composition through a predominantly conceptual approach. Therefore I do pay attention to avoid focusing the working process and outcome on a too conceptual approach. From my point of view, the quality of a work, particularly on the conceptual level, has to be evolved in the working process and has to be embedded in the quality of the composition of every work. I do not believe that any concept could be seen as an excuse for a lack in the quality of composition. There has to be an entanglement between the conceptual aspects and the formal quality of the work. Avoiding a too conceptual approach that is missing compositional qualitiy means vice versa that a solely formal, aesthetical work that is lacking conceptual complexity is also problematic from my point of view. Therefore I did not continue to do works like »plant« or nude, because although I do like the formal quality and composition of these works, the focus on the »beauty« of the composition has not been enough for my approach, although these kind of photographs would have been an easy path to gain public and commercial success, see »notes« below regarding some problems related to the phenomenons of popularity and elitism.

Nevertheless, I do like the work a lot from a personal perspective, because the lack of conceptual aspects is somehow compensated, actually and in the end, through the beauty of the composition.

Notes on popularity and elitism

One exemplary sign for the annotation that »plant« has gained some »popular« attraction, is the attention »plant« did receive on the saatchi art online platform: plant on saatchi art. The work has been also included in: In Focus: New Photography, curated by Rebecca Wilson, Chief Curator and Director, Art Advisory at Saatchi Art. She was formerly a Director at the Saatchi Gallery, London. From this platform, »plant« did spread over the internet via various blogs, like tangerine crush, reblogged 23 times, or listed under the »best 218 black and white photographs« on pinterest. In this sense, »plant« did gain some popular status, and I do not complain about it at all. I also deliberately did not delete my saatchi art account, though after putting my own website online, it might have been the usual act to distance oneself from these early steps. I actually do see it as an experiment to let the image circulate through the internet and particularly through private blogs, this process is also an investigation in phenomenons related to images, an investigation in my core motif of »figures in movement«.

Beyond these aspects, I do not consider my work as an intellectual contribution that should be seen only in some specific context, like a museum, generally, in the context of an elitism of the so called art world. Actually, I do not like any kind of intellectual elitism, what is actually a problem, because the so called »art world« is contaminated with this phenomenon. Somehow, I would prefer the down to earth character of a considerably »straight« reception and experience of my work, on the other hand, the complexity of most of my works stands somehow in opposition to any superficial popular reception and needs some sophisticated and trained sensibility.

Regarding the tensions between popularity's shallowness and elitism's arrogance, my approach is to compose an accessible form for an initial experience of the work on a sensual level. Starting from this level, the conceptual aspects and complexity should be experienced in close connection to the material qualities and the compositional structures and levels of the work. I would consider these problems to be also as exemplary for contemporary photography in general. Photography that gains considerable popularity might be in danger of a too pleasingly aesthetical approach on the one hand, on the other hand, so called conceptual photography might dazzle itself, the critics and the public with political, pseudo-sociological or comparable platitudes, that gain considerable popularity in some circles, but fail to convince from a view, that understands the quality of composition and coherence as the base of any art work. (I would consider these problems regarding »photography« for myself actually as too specific for photographical approaches, therfore and for other reasons I would consider myself not as a »photographer«, but as an »image maker«.) Finally, the challenge is to provide an accessible complexity, avoiding the pitfalls of popularity and elitism.

[all works from nicolas constantin © nicolas constantin romanacci]