Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Richard Learoyd

Exactly one month left to see the Richard Learoyd show at the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco. Try not to miss it if you're anywhere near the area. For those with good or even short memories, Learoyd was number one in my Top Ten list of 2010 - singled out for invigorating at least three genres at once – cameraless (or more accurately film-less) photography, portraiture, and still life.

Working with a self-made camera that creates highly detailed near life-size images by projecting an image directly onto photographic paper without any interposing negative, Learoyd produces unique large scale prints unlike anything seen before. There is a tactility and a detail that makes the figures (and objects) seem like they will at any moment start breathing and walk right out of the frame.

Surprisingly (to me) for many years Learoyd was a commercial photographer - an area that somehow rarely produces top notch fine art photographers. You tend to pick a lane (or the lane picks you). At least that's been my experience over a very long period of looking of photographers' work. But Learoyd is the exception and proves that there is always someone doing something not only new but new and with integrity, substance, depth and meaning. The trick is to find them!

I know it gets a little tiring to constantly single out Fraenkel's shows, but they do them beautifully and most shows, including this one, have accompanying catalogs that are collectibles in their own right and well worth the money. ($45 for the Learoyd catalog.)


Anonymous said...

Lee Friedlander
Robert Frank
Walker Evans
Diane Arbus
Irving Penn
Wolfgang Tillman
Juergen Teller

Just to name a few commercial photographers who also did "fine art" photography

The Year in Pictures said...

I would call these fine art photographers who also did commercial work.


Anonymous said...

No, I agree, Most of those photographers were clearly commercial photographers to start, and did not find success in the art world until much later. There has always been a thin line between commercial and fine art work. I believe Arbus started out as a commercial photographer with her husband.

Anonymous said...

I was lucky enough to see the Learoyd show in SF in May when I was working there. I can't stop thinking about those photos! So great.

Anonymous said...

I fell in love with Learoyd's pictures the minute I saw them. They were unlike anything I had ever seen. I love photographs, but I don't care about photography, per se. Learoyd's pictures magically transcend that capacious category. They belong to something much larger, and more ineffable. I've never seen a picture so detailed, so concrete, and yet so unknowable. Matter-of-fact and pure mystery.