Both photographers concentrate on 3-D scale modelling, especially of architectural interiors yet differ radically over means and subjects. Demand’s work perhaps commands the greater interest currently, and there are two reasons why this may be. Before considering these, Casebere’s contribution is carefully reviewed.
Casebere began in the mid 70s, making comic studio-based tableau such as Fork in the Refrigerator (1975) in which a gigantic fork penetrates a refrigerator. Such work shares an interest in cartoon imagery and whimsy, with photographers such as Sandy Skoglund, for instance. However Casebere’s interests shift to more public architecture in the 80s and the modelling takes on a more simplified set of volumes, often against a black background, with theatrical or cinematic lighting. From dealing with extreme fantasy the work now emphasises an evocative, fictional setting. However detail, or lack thereof, then treads a thin line. For while the models are clearly not realistic in great detail, this does not necessarily make them greatly fictional. Rather, fantasy here struggles against falsity, so that the model demonstrates certain melodramatic lighting or smoky atmosphere, and yet lacks the detail to pursue these to greater detail or distance.
Model, lighting and angle subtly test the overall impression or evocation to the photograph. Casebere’s use of prison models in the mid 90s exploits both the dramatic heritage and the inherent austerity of such architecture. The mood never ‘escapes’ the model, the model cannot do more than nod to the melodrama of the lighting and angle. Casebere has occasionally built his models for exhibition also, but mostly they remain tools for his photography, and the photography does not just lie in the stagy lighting, but in the ability of the camera lens and focus to direct attention to the details of the modelling, in delivering a coherent depth or perspective. This is something so basic to a camera, as to be often overlooked in assessing photographic qualities.
Casebere’s work subsequently seeks more exotic architecture, less familiar in scale and construction and often introduces a watery motif to foregrounds, as in Yellow Hallway (2001) and Green Staircase (2002). Here the scale of the water ripples again underlines the inconsistency of scale, the failure of fiction, in fact. In others, angle toys with the water, strives for other
theatricality. But this balance to the conviction of the models also underscores the standards of lens and focus brought to bear on both.
Demand’s work arrives around 1994 and his model making restricts materials to paper and card, immediately reducing all surface textures to a smooth, uniform colour, emphasising crisp volumes, subtle colour schemes, often in even or flat lighting. His choice of subjects looks to popular or topical publications, where the factual nature of photography is foremost. His patient reconstructions, as is often noted, tend to strip objects of wear or accident, to give scenes an anonymous, generic character. Perspective and proportions are maintained, but the realism stops at basic volume, flat colours. But notice that the work does not seem exactly false for this, as occurs in Casebere, but rather abstracted. There is no appeal to intangible qualities of mood or atmosphere, so the factual sits more comfortably on Demand.
But again the relation of model to photography is in fact an opportunity to demonstrate how lens and focus channel attention to this austerity of volume, surface and colour. To regard the model itself would be to lose this in consideration of scale, extent and varieties of point of view. It takes photography to filter these out, to ruthlessly measure the model against lens, exposure and focus – against what had become the mechanics of realism in depiction – and to properly register what has been modelled.
Demand has broadened his range of subjects, with exterior and natural settings, notably the spectacular Grotto (2006) and relaxed his model making, allowing the layers of card to appear at the base of the stalagmites in Grotto, and in other works, foregoes local colour to use bare card to the component volumes. In both cases model making is emphasised and the subject further abstracted, but not falsified or fictionalised.
Demand’s models make less demands in a sense than Casebere’s; allow him to be stricter with the terms of modelling, its treatment in photography. It is a more elegant if less ambitious project. But secondly, Demand’s more sociological scope fits comfortably within a broader German approach to art and design (see Posts 8, 15, 41 and 54) so that the project enjoys formidable reinforcement, within and beyond photography.
Tuesday, 6 November 2007
Posted by CAP at 21:36