From Beth Dow’s series: “Ruins” [ source: Ruins. Retrieved July 4, 2017, from Web site: http://www.bethdow.com/ruins.html]
Dow’s idea was to photograph incongruous structures in a variety of settings, generally classical architecture follies in a modern American landscape. She says:
“[This portfolio]…. looks at the ways we appropriate and approximate the romance of ruins into modern American environments, and what this says about our longing for historic precedents.”
“I have been looking at Victorian photographs by Francis Frith, Felix Bonfils, and Giorgio Sommer, as well as sepia ink and wash drawings by Claude Lorrain, a 17th century artist who used classical ruins to create ideal scenes of pastoral splendor. My pictures of faked antiquities are an attempt to evoke nostalgia for inaccurate history, to wrestle with ideas of authenticity, and to question the value we place on classical ideals. It is natural to challenge the relevance of nostalgic longing, and I exploit this dynamic in my contemporary landscapes. I approach these pictures as a tourist. These photographs of authentic sites include whatever clutter exists around the actual subjects, and people mill around, much as they do in Frith’s photographs. Life goes on among the ruins”
Ruins. Retrieved July 4, 2017, from Web site: http://www.bethdow.com/ruins.html
Dow’s photographs are in a square format, without borders and of a slightly warm monotone. She appears to have selected dull or overcast weather as the lighting is rather flat and the skies have considerable detail. All appear to be made from head height, in keeping with her ‘tourist’ approach mentioned above. The images present us with two ‘presences’ – the out-of-place element and the surrounding ordinariness, and though the banal surroundings appear insouciant the classical constructions seem distinctly uncomfortable.
Dow uses a medium format camera to produce film negatives which she then scans and prints via inkjet. I imagine the toning is intended to imitate the tintypes of the Victorian photographers who inspired her. Her choice of a wide angle lens is relevant:
“I like how my lens, which is slightly wide-angle, converges verticals and disorients space, especially evident in electricity poles that unify the images” [ibid]
What I like about this work and Dow’s approach to it, is her ready utilisation of disparate techniques to produce the final object – the print – she is aiming for. She’s quite happy to use their various characteristics to her advantage. Here are some of her garden images:
In the Garden
These are platinum/palladium prints and have the slightly ethereal appearance typical of this process. I particularly like the fountain photograph above. There’s a similar garden feature at a local manor house which I may well photograph in a similar fashion. Of this series, Dow says:
“My images are not depictive. I use the land before me as a jumping off point, implying light or shadow where perhaps there was none, as a way to create my own path through the garden. In fact, by positioning the lens, cropping my prints, and using burning and dodging to guide the viewer’s eye through a picture, I feel that I too am a gardener in a sense. I am after that “slant of curious light” that is the genius of a place.” [ibid]
Again, she makes no bones about her attitude to manipulation – she makes whatever adjustment she sees fit in order to achieve the print she wants.