"Photography is always a dialogue..."

The title for this post is a quote from Bob Black's comments as he responded to 'Massillon'; a stunning set of images by Jeff Charbonneau and Eliza French on Burn.  The usually erudite (though sometimes vitriolic) Burn commentators seemed somewhat perplexed and disorientated by Massillon. As well they might. The work is not only beautiful but also seriously demanding and asks deep questions of memory, symbolism, and identity as well as checking our assumptions of the photographic medium.

I was captured by "Ablation" (among many others), which Jeff and Eliza have kindly allowed me to use on Photo-Dialogue:

Charbonneau and French have been working together since 2004 and bring together not only considerable photographic expertise but also blend music, art history, curating and anthropology into the creative mix. According to art critic Peter Frank they have "compiled an impressive body of work brimming with mystery and sensuality, self-consciously but elegantly Gothic - stills, it would seem from an Edgar Allen Poe film adaption directed by Ingmar Bergman, or Fellini's take on Lewis Carroll."

Jeff notes; "Maybe the work that Eliza and I present would be better described as subjective narrative and printmaking." Indeed, the printmaker's craft is clearly present though my interest falls more towards the persistent narrative of a lone female who appears through a variety dreamlike images in surreal locations. "These images are drawn from childhood reminiscence, old family folklore, dreamstates, or a combination thereof." says Eliza, "Our path to a final image is a mediation on memory, and how it functions through us, and between us."

Massillon asks questions in a way that gently offers them dialogically to our consciousness.  The work raises our awareness of the decisions that photographers make; the selection, narrative content, crop, one moment as opposed to another and the 'truth' that images provide. And in undertaking that delicate process, the work begins to ask the same questions of how we process our own selection of truth.  

Clearly, this is all among some of the more difficult issues prompted not only by photography as an expressive medium, but also our ability to do justice to questions of dialogue and relationship. However, I love these words by Jeff on Burn which puts it all into perspective:

"Hopefully our collective whimsies as photographers can allow us all to experiment and accept success and failure in our attempts to communicate. At least it’s fun and challenging to try………"

You'll find more of Jeff and Eliza's work at SevenSistersAsleep and they are currently exhibiting at The New Orleans Museum of Art.

Steve MarshallComment