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Photo Synthesis

Untitled Landscape (1998)

September 03, 2006|Colin Westerbeck

This is an elegantly formal photograph. The point of view gives the elements in the composition a relationship to each other that makes the picture seem complete, self-contained. The houses rim the hillside in an undulating line that the pink flowers underscore and the rock-filled drainage channel imitates. It's picture-perfect.

Yet Mark Wyse denounces photographic "high formalism" of the sort he himself creates. In an exchange we had, he also rejects the viewer's need to know where the picture was taken or even what flowers these are. His reasoning can become involuted. He says that "photographs, as static seeing, provide the experience of seeing oneself seeing." He refuses to supply any information because his goal is to "heighten photographic transparency to a level that collapses in on itself."

Aren't the flowers a mix of wild and cultivated? A colleague who knows flora better than I do says the pink ones are rose ice plant, while the yellow are wild mustard. It's a landscape carefully manicured to look natural--a classic California paradox. But the desired effect gets dry-gulched by that expert drainage channel winding along the bottom like a snake slithering through the Garden of Eden. I sure wish I knew where this is.

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