Syntax and the Typology

In previous posts I’ve discussed how Barthes concept of ‘Syntax’ being used to bring images or collections of images together is a consideration to many photographers. Another term used was concatenation. when considering these ideas of combining images in formations or sets the photographic typology springs to mind.

To collect photographs is to collect the world

Susan Sontag, 1977

During this post I have outlined several examples of the photographic typology in action. Some have been visited before by myself in both this MA and in my previous photographic practice.

Bernd and Hilla Becher. When it comes to considering the photographic typology, the Bechers are first and foremost one of the most recognisable works. Their images were grouped as collections of various industrial structures such as mine head towers, water towers, gas silos and so on.

Not only were these groups of images typological because they were of the same subject matter but because they were all photographed in the same style and approach. Using deadpan photographic techniques, the Bechers documented these industrial landmarks in the same way from one to the next. The preference to photograph on overcast days reduces the shadow and thus the contrast and emotion within the image. These become as objective as possible as a result.

Bernd and Hilla Becher – Mining Towers

Zhao Xiaomeng. Available also as individual images, Bicycles in Beijing, Now, explores the left behind modes of transport which are the victims of the march of industrialisation in China. When displayed as below, the photographs become both unique and synonymous with each other simultaneously. The collection of these objects when together form an aesthetic which is both overwhelming and informative at the same time.

Michael Wolf. Paris Tree Shadows collects images of the absence of the object at the centre of the body of work. The shadow cast by the strong light onto the masonry of Paris streets become The Thing Itself in Wolfs’ photographic collections. As individual images, and as a set, they support the referent which is connoted within the work.

Ed Ruscha. Ruschas’ Twenty Six Gasoline Stations was a fundamental inspiration behind my renowned series A Road Petrol Stations at Night. The typological approach to documenting petrol forecourts in the United States enabled Ruscha to create a time-capsule of the style and aesthetic of this most mundane of objects. The work, being completed in 1960’s USA evidences what these spaces looked like some 60 to 70 years ago. It was this consideration which lead me to wonder in my work what those same fueling stations would look like 60 to 70 years from now.

When considering some of the examples shown here it becomes more apparent that the typology is a staple of much of my photographic practice. Working to ‘collect the world’ through photographs. An example I would like to share here is Doors of Lombard Street, a mini series photographing every front door on a street in Portsea, Southsea, Portsmouth, England.

Nicholls, J. (n.d.). Typologies.

Wolf, M. (n.d.). Michael Wolf.

Xiaomeng, Z. (n.d.). Bicycles in Beijing, Now.

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