I recently started using ZooTool to keep track of artists I’m interested in. I’ve been envious of friends who are meticulously organized. I had a professor for undergrad who always amazed me. He was a veritable living library of artists- any project I had in mind, he could pull up 3 artists in his Bridge library who worked in that area. At any rate, I hope this will be a great way to keep myself current while cataloguing other artists who influence me. You can see my full zoo here.
John Chervinsky was one of the first photographers whose work really resonated with me. His simple still-lifes are quiet and beautiful, and yet, not so simple.
I first learned of Chervinsky’s work when I was in a Concepts of Photography class. The entire quarter was basically getting to play with fun cameras we’d never used or seen before. We tried out Holgas, Rolliflexes, a Hasselblad, and a few Calumet view cameras. My professor tried to teach us about shifting & swinging & tilting and all the effects these can have on an image. Jay showed us John Chervinsky to illustrate what is possible with perspective distortion.
Perspective distortion has a lot to do with focus and foreshortening. The closer the camera is to a subject, the more enhanced the focal point becomes, and the larger objects closest to the camera appear. Distortion is usually most obvious in images with straight lines. Some distortion occurs because a camera’s lens is convex (curved out) and the glass ‘bends’ the lines of the image. Foreshortening, especially in architectural images, mostly occurs because the plane of focus is not parallel to the object being photographed. Tilting the lens of a view camera can change the focal plane from being parallel to the film back, to being at an angle, which can bring objects both near and far into focus at the same time.
Understanding a process or dissecting can often take away some of the charm behind beautiful things in life (I don’t really want to know exactly how my hamburger was made), but learning how a view camera works made Chervinsky’s work all the more enticing to me.
You see, an image like Time Machine is all the more magical when I understand that the chalk lines and the top half of the cube drawing are on a wall behind the table the clock is sitting on. The entire image looks in focus and on one plane, but there are actually several depths.
Once the ‘trick’ is revealed, then these quiet images become playful and even more intriguing. I wouldn’t expect anything less from a man who runs a particle accelerator at Harvard.