Michael Ashley

Visual Arts etc.

Strange Moments - 2013

An open-ended project of street photography. Each print is offered in a series of five.

Details

Inkjet prints: 17 in. x 22 in., archival ink on archival paper

Artist's Statement

“Strange Moments” is a series inspired by the tradition of street photographers like Walker Evans, Lisette Model, and Fred Herzog, with a dash of Martin Parr and Ken Lum. These photos capture un-posed people and un-composed scenes. Each shares an element of strangeness, sometimes subtle, sometimes overt, which made me shake my head, blink my eyes and take a second look.

There is a saying that the best camera is the one you have with you. The images in the “Small Tragedies” series were all captured with a camera phone. I came across these unfortunates while out walking in my neighbourhood. Many of them didn’t even register at first, as my brain was preoccupied with “getting somewhere”. Then my visual cortex kicked in and directed my feet back so I could look more closely at the creature on the walkway. Given their insignificance, I felt it only proper to print their images at monumental proportions.

Henri Cartier-Bresson wrote of the “decisive moment” in photography. There is nothing decisive about any of the “Strange Moments” images. Many share a snap-shot aesthetic dictated by the transience of the scene, as with the clown amongst the other New Yorkers in Central Park, or the young girl catching herself in her own butterfly net, its colour echoed in the shocking pink of cactus blossoms. Others are more resonant with traditions of landscape or still life photography, as with the peaceful scene of water lilies masking discarded shopping carts, or the window full of disembodied hands. Aside from the varied styles, however, all share a distinct weirdness, an element of peculiarity despite surroundings that are commonplace, even banal.

Even the “Small Tragedies” pictures have passed beyond the decisive moment. They are, rather, records of the aftermath of some decisive event that took place “offstage”, the effects of which linger but are soon wiped away by the passage of other feet or the next rainstorm.

Although my artistic practice includes sculpture, new media, and video, photography remains my first love. I’m usually carrying a camera with me during my travels. I consider this to be an open-ended series as I keep bumping into these moments when I least expect them. I hope that I remain aware enough to continue to see them.