Art and Arnold

Framing of “Frames,” Parerga in Sergeant Photography

In the contemporary, the practice of wedding photography operates under the illusion of diversity. This illusion is predicated on the ‘theme’ of the photographs: the wedding. There is the societal belief that each wedding is unique, special, and not akin to another. The choices the bride and groom make regarding dress, location, literature, music, and attendants, are custom, designed to create a sole moment never to be repeated. And while there may be some truth to this myth, one must remember that the choices made fall under the heading of ‘wedding,’ and, as such, are already pre-informed by society. True, wedding dresses are different, but in fact how different? True, two wedding services are different, but how far apart are they in their intent to establish the same outcome? If one removes the details, diversity is the last thing a wedding strives for.

As such, ‘wedding’ is a frame. The term brings about a large discourse built on an even larger industry which focuses the bride and groom, as well as all others, into the center of the myth of the uniqueness of matrimony. Wedding photography contributes to this frame and this myth, in its documentation of the moments of the event. Here, one must consider how this documentation is manifested, and I turn the reader to any bridal magazine for examples. If one removes the details, the homogeneity of the images is easy to see.

The question becomes: in the face of such an industry, of a myth that produces more similarities than differences and uniqueness (those things the bride and groom actually want), can wedding photography create a truly individualized image? Sargeant photography progresses a solution, but in a method that makes these frames the plaything of uniqueness.

These photographers rely on a stylistic trump in their images, one that operates a contrast between the subject(s) of the photo, and the photo itself: the frame. However, this frame is not the border of the photograph. It is the frames within this frame. It is the compositional use of inner-image shapes that work to focus the image onto the subject(s). And while such compositional devices build from moments in art history such as the Renaissance, and mathematical devices such as the ‘golden rectangle,’ Sargeant photography is not content to just reference these methodologies. Their work is more than just a repetition of the past onto an area of photography some would consider kitsch.

What I sense is a marriage between these compositional devices and the entire myth structure of weddings. The uniqueness sought married to the composition through a self-aware and self-reflexive position of wedding photography and art history.

To be self-aware and self-reflexive entails a level of honesty. One must be honest about what one is. Sargeant photography is wedding photography, and thus is part of the larger industry of weddings as well as part of the larger industry of photography. On one side they have the frames of weddings, and on the other, the frames of photography. They must produce individuality and a mechanically reproducible image. Further, they must do so through the idea of a marriage.

A marriage is not the repetition of the past, nor is it a borrowing of ideas. It is the synthesis of two positions into one while retaining the individuality of the separate positions. Thus a Sargeant photograph presents a Janus image: it turns to photography and it turns to weddings. Their deployment of inner-frame shapes, when assessed in this manner, becomes a larger meditation on both the necessity of these frames (the larger structures of weddings and photography) to construct the image, and their malleability which constructs the sought individuality.

This is a move that sits in direct refutation to the key position taken at the outset of this discussion: that of removing details. Conceptually, one cannot simply disregard these things as these are the very things that make the larger canons manifest. If one obsessively erases every last trait of something, then the thing ceases to be. And not even in the manner of the absent-present trace[1], because even the trace is removed. But such a position becomes untenable as quickly as it is established. It will ultimately erase itself.

However, it is never enough to just rely upon the presence of the details in order to establish the position. One must also use them. The key detail that Sargeant photography uses is contrast. In the sensu stricto of the image alone, this is seen playing between the geometric frames and the human figure(s). However, neither side dominates the other, but instead due to a third frame: the practice of composition, they reside in a balance. If one considers the larger ideology of weddings themselves, there is a similar contrast balance at work. At the outset, this is manifest between the two persons involved, then, reaching outward, between the two families involved, and then outward again into the larger framing devices of wedding. What Sargeant photography does is work this idea of contrast and balance across the broader metaphorical positions considered throughout, within one single image. In so doing, they practice wedding photography honestly, as what is: a balance.

Sargeant Photography is an independent photography studio located in Long Beach California.

[1] This is not in reference to Derrida’s: trace. Instead it is meant to represent something akin to tire tracks. A tire track indicates that a car was once there, but is there no more. Therefore, the car retains a position in presence without its actual manifestation. This is also what is known as an indexical sign.

Posted 3rd May 2014 by Arnold, H.C.

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This entry was posted on February 8, 2016 by .
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