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Mark Steinmetz

In some articles about your work we’ve read that the atmosphere you create with the images, has been compared to independent-movie scenes, with their specific code and language. Do you think that your photographs suggest that kind of imagery? And would you like to explain what this imagery is all about? For example, we guess that some of your images, like ” Girl at restaurant, Marietta, Georgia”; “Boy on corner, Knoxville”; “Boy blowing balloon, Off Highway 441, North Georgia” and many others, could be perfect movie stills.

MS: Where are these articles about my work? I don’t think I know them. I love going to the movies though. When I was a 17 year-old freshman in college I took a course on the films of Michaelangelo Antonioni and we went over his movies cut by cut, which, by the way, turned out to be great preparation for thinking about how to put photography books together. I’ve studied silent films and film noir so who knows what I’ve absorbed from all that and how it may have seeped into my work. But I have to say that photography that tends to be called “cinematic” doesn’t appeal to me so much. Staged work often seems fairly lifeless. There’s little surprise to it – it lacks that freshness, that rawness that comes from discovering something that’s out there in life.

Winogrand advised photographers “to make pictures that are smarter than you are.” He’s saying that the world is more interesting than our ideas about it, and that if you have faith in the richness of the everyday world and the willingness to collaborate with chance happenings, you can make a picture that exceeds anything your mind could come up with. Photography that pretends to behave like cinema tends to trade in manufactured (false) emotions and in unconvincing, dilute experiences.

In a movie, if you have two bank robbers who dash into a darkened warehouse to hide from the cops, you’re suddenly viewing a dark screen, but it’s still believable as a warehouse. In still photography, there’s no way a black picture is going to conjure up bank robbers in a warehouse. Still photography just isn’t a narrative medium in the same way as film. Photographs never explain anything; the limits to what photographs actually demonstrate and offer needs to be rigorously understood by photographers. Otherwise you end up with elaborate supporting captions or vague, wishful fantasies about what the pictures might be about.”

From “ahorn magazine ” an interview with Mark Steinmetz .

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September 6