The other night we held our Aesthesia Studios+MOPLA+Genlux photographic competition event. What's that you ask? Well over the past few months, through an effort spearheaded by Lew Abramson, we've been collecting photographic entries (images shot on film—NO DIGITAL IMAGES ALLOWED). The big night—to reveal the winners—had finally arrived.
The party was held at Aesthesia Studios. owned by Grant and Tiziana Mitchell. There were delicious tray-passed hors d'oeuvres, lots of cocktails and tasty (and carbonated) Hint Water courtesy of our friend, Paul Palacios. The top three winners were awarded crystal trophies, studio time in Aesthesia Studios and all will be published in Genlux magazine's Summer issue! The evening started with a talk by photographer Art Schreiber, but that needs it's own post so more on that one later.
The judges were: Cat Jimenez – Executive Director, Lucie Foundation, and Co-Founder MOPLA; Deborah Burch, Executive Producer Snog Productions; Kwaku Alston, Professional Photographer and Educator; and Marc Baptiste, Celebrity Fashion Photographer, Director and Philanthropist; and me!
We were asked to judge all entries on a scale of 1 to 5. Of all the entries, I only gave one of them a 5. And it was this winning entry by photographer Heather Williamson. A haunting image of a man in a helmet with a tracheotomy apparatus around his neck, noticeable scars and an eerie stare that seems 100% genuine. It reminds of the line about Edith Piaf's life that goes, 'she lived a life so tragic it was beautiful.' I look at this photo and say it's definitely tragic, and it's definitely beautiful. Take a good look for yourself and then I'll tell you the rest of the story.
Heather Williamson, the photographer told me she took only one photograph of this man whose name was Abraham. He had just gotten out of a downtown hospital. There are so many great things about this photograph. The tonal quality, the grain structure, the composition, the lighting, the expression, the graffiti on the helmet (Did he do the graffiti? Did he find this helmet?), the tracheotomy neckpiece (What is that about?), the rosary beads, the scars on his face, the soulful eyes of a man whose conscious state may or may not be present, the beautiful tonal background that splits the image so beautifully both horizontally and vertically, and the "by chance" band of light that almost looks representational of a fold of an old photograph.
It's mind-boggling that this is just ONE image. ONE shot. Only ONE. Not one picked from 20, or 10 or even two. It's only one of one. It's not setup, or staged or created in post. This is one real, genuine, photograph shot on film. According to the photographer, she went up to Abraham on the street, asked to take his photo, got real close to him, waited for a moment and then took it. Just one photograph. She does have the negative but has no intention of reproducing another print. That's it. So many times we've had the discussion, "Is photography art." I've always argued that it's NOT art. But then I look at an image like this and I say, hey, maybe I'm wrong—photography can be art—especially if the photographer is really willing to destroy the negative after making just one print. That's art.