|McLean, Virginia, December 1978|
In this weeks the guardian art weekly Sean O'Hagan talks to Joel Sternfeld. Sternfeld’s images are often not quite what they seem. Called McLean, Virginia, 1978, that shot of the fireman, the pumpkins and the burning house is indeed a record of an actual event he witnessed, but the blaze is part of a training exercise from which the fireman is taking a break. “You take 35 degrees out of 360 degrees and call it a photo,” he told the Guardian in 2004. “No individual photo explains anything. That’s what makes photography such a wonderful and problematic medium.” Today, he reiterates that sentiment: “A photograph is only a fragment of a shattered pot.”
For all his epic undertakings, Sternfeld’s work remains relatively under-exhibited. “Again, I have been too busy making work to show it that much.” he says, “but for me, the best place to see the images is in the books.” Was he influenced by any great photography books along the way? “No. I didn’t care about photobooks.” he says matter-of-factly. “I thought most photographers were idiots.” Can he elaborate? “Well, it often seemed to me that some beautiful, magical things could be happening in the world and they were too busy fumbling with their lenses to see it. There are exceptions, of course. I’ve never seen a Robert Adams photograph that hasn’t amazed me, but my point is you need to look out to the world.”
Sternfeld has a show Joel Sternfeld, Colour Photographs: 1977-1988 at Beetles + Huxley, London, 27 January to 18 February. The exhibition features 30 vintage dye transfer and chromogenic prints, the exhibition will include well known images by the artist as well as works that have never been seen before.
The exhibition will showcase several examples of vintage dye transfer prints from one of Sternfeld's best-known bodies of work, "American Prospects". Sternfeld traversed the United States with his 8 x 10 inch camera, in order to capture the essential character of the country. First exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York and then published in book form in 1987, "American Prospects" is regarded as one of the most influential bodies of photographic work from this period.
You can read the complete O'Hagan interview HERE. And take a moment to check out the guardian art weekly HERE.
|Red Rock State Campground (boy), Gallup, New Mexico, September 1982|
|Canyon Country, California, June 1983|