On Sundays I like to post a selection of photos from my favourite Flickr artists. This week, it’s a truly special artist, whose work I find particularly moving and inspirational: the UK’s Chris Friel.
You would be forgiven for skipping this post all together and going straight to Chris’ web site.
Chris works a lot with tilt shift lenses, and with very dark filters that prolong the exposure time so he can paint with blur. His images tend to be very soft with sharp points in a diffuse field, or to feature incredibly sharp objects in a field blurred by a tilted lens. (I’ll get around to some how-to posts on both these techniques some time. Keep an eye on this site). This is a very broad generalisation, of course.
Enough by the way of introduction, and hopefully I’ll be able to feature a discussion with Chris on here some time soon. Here’s some images.
Sea of blood #15
This beautiful image shows one of the factors I admire so much in Chris’ work. It looks so organic. The way Chris manipulates the exposure time and moves the camera is a physical, time-based process that adds a layer of randomness and physicality to the composition. It is magical, and the way he uses water and the reflection of light on water to scratch hard, sharp points in the composition is fantastic.
Tim Andrews 4
A very Frielian take on the portrait. The hands take on such importance in such a treatment, and almost become monolithic landscape elements. The facial expression is not weakened by the blur. Rather its emotional content is heightened by the degree of abstraction the blur introduces. Fantastic portrait. I wouldn’t hang it on my boys’ bedroom wall so they could see it last thing before sleep though. Not unless they’d been really bad, anyway.
Chris is a master of the tilt-shift lens. Old large format cameras allowed you to tilt the lens relative to the focal plane, and also move the lens parallel with the focal plane. This allowed architectural photography to keep the sloping planar faces of buildings (relative to the camera) in focus, and could correct the distortions of perspective. In contemporary photography tilt shift lenses are used in the opposite manner, to create blurred regions in a photograph that might otherwise be sharp. If using a shallow field to isolate focus, this technique gives you a much finer brush. Most commonly we see this technique used to create false miniatures, and it is becoming very common in video. But Chris demonstrates the true creative potential of the tilt-shift, to compose the field as well as the subject, and to bring out qualities that would have been latent in the more traditional photograph. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in his Wild Horses series…
… except than maybe in his landscape work. Here, a tilt introduces a line change in focus that seems to melt the landscape and almost envelop the viewer.
Another fascinating strand of Chris’ work is his ability to create very minimal landscapes through blur, tilt and camera motion. In this case I think a light tilt is contributing, but I’m only guessing. All I know for sure is it is very still, beautiful and brown. (Trivia, and I’m sure Chris is sick of hearing this, but he is colourblind. I wonder if this different sensibility actually comes through in some of his work?)
Finally, a much more traditional shot from very early in Chris’ Flickr stream (which has recently turned 4 and reached 2000 posts. Go get lost in it!) Just plainly and simply a beautifully composed image with fantastic tones and wonderful use of scale and the human form and a large dose of mystery.
What do you think of Chris’ work? I’d love to hear your comments. I’m sure the other readers would too. It’s such fascinating work.