Deep Surfaces

October 20, 2009

Michaela_Dalzell_LThis week, the MPS Digital Photography Department is opening “Surface Tension,” an exhibition of thesis work from the program’s 2009 graduating class, curated by alumnus and faculty member Dan Halm (MFA 2001 Illustration as Visual Essay; BFA 1994 Illustration). The show has already been getting favorable notices in the press, including pieces in the Daily News, Double Exposure and Visura.

The images in “Surface Tension”—on view at the SVA Gallery, 209 East 23rd Street, October 21 – November 14 (there is an opening reception on Wednesday, October 21, 6 – 8pm)—are an amalgam of responses to national events, private fears, hidden desires and personal epiphanies, taken from bodies of work completed on a digital platform. Department Chair Katrin Eismann spoke to the Briefs about the show:

The students and visual approaches are fairly diverse—how do you stitch them into a coherent show?
The diversity of the show reflects the student body. That group of 16 ranges in age from 22 – 60, comes from 5 continents, and is made up of many different types of photographers—photojournalists, landscape photographers, fine artists, etc. The program brought them together through the emphasis on quality, and there’s no weak work in the show.

You’ve taught all of the students whose work is in the show. Does the work in the show grow directly from work in class?
Some of it does. All of this work was developed in faculty member Amy Stein’s (MFA 2006 Photography, Video and Related Media) Thesis Development course. All of the images went through that class, but there are also specific projects that had already been started in the fall, such as Michaela Dazell’s project, which began in Harvey Stein’s course, The Art of Editorial Photography.

What are some of the aesthetic concerns specific to this work as digital photography?
The importance of not using clichés. There are certain digital image-processing clichés that lead to hyper- or overcooked images. You can spot them a mile away, such as high-dynamic-range imaging, a look where people overprocess so the colors get oversaturated and the images get cartoony and gritty. We don’t have that problem, because we encourage students to create their own look and style. There has to be a balance between concept and implementation using digital technology.

Image: Michaela Dalzell, Finding Love in New york City, 2009.

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