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The Work

 

ABA ShowIn the spring of 2007 I was asked to curate a show for Blair that he had been invited to hang at the Long Gallery in Vail, Arizona. The Long Gallery is, in fact, quite long and it became apparent that at least 40 images would be required to fill the space. That number made it very difficult to assemble a theme-based show and it seemed to me to be a good opportunity to assemble a retrospective of several areas of Blair's work.

In the 21st Century, photography is going digital in a flash. Yet, the gelatin silver print is the medium Blair prefers to translate his images although it is becoming an increasing challenge for him to find good silver paper with which to print. His finished prints are lovely to hold, revealing the imperfections and uneven surfaces that are a result of the process of silver printing by human hands. They possess a surface texture and patina that I don't think can be matched in the digital print at this time. It is a handmade object and shows the human side of the process including mistakes and flaws that can't be altered by the emerging magic of Photoshop. Each silver print will be slightly different than the one produced before and after.

Blair studied with Mark Citrit several years ago and while they share two different worlds of subject matter, I observed that Blair's style was influenced by Mark's approach to his architectural and landscape images. Mark's images are clean, spare and he frames his subjects elegantly and with care. Mark teaches that the placement of the "corners" is one of the most important elements in capturing an image. Blair's work follows that teaching.

Recently Blair had the opportunity to work with the Japanese master photographer Eikoh Hosoe. Hosoe's early work includes the abstracted nude presented with limited context. Hosoe is also well known for his theatrical and story-telling images. Blair's work includes several "stories". More recently Blair studied with Andreas Bittisnich and experienced his approach to the classical nude. Andreas' work is the subject of many books and is known for his very sculptural view of the human body.

The figure studies in Blair's work reflect a minimalist or reductive approach and celebrate the beauty of the human body without undue context. That's a challenging exercise with a medium designed to capture detail. Blair's work with still life photographs, occasional landscapes, portraits and abstracts follows the same aesthetic; direct and simple.

I have reviewed and critiqued Blair's work over the years and this project required me to go through many images and it is clear to me that the collected work follows a committed aesthetic. If labels are necessary they might include "minimal" or "reductive".

The process of assembling a retrospective show requires a review of images and negatives produced over some period of time. Some of the images are, of course, his "old friends" and some of the new discoveries are images that did not get printed or processed at the time they were taken. Context often dates an image by hairstyle, clothes, furniture, and other recognizable items. Most of Blair's work could have been shot 20 years ago or last week. I like the element of timelessness.

CATHERINE BODE FRIEDERICH
Tucson, Arizona
June 2007

© 2015 | Blair Phillips Friederich