Philip V. Augustin
Studio Series: 2016-2017 refines my conception of blurring the firm boundaries of representational photography and reconsiders modernist ideas of photographic abstraction. This work is process-driven, informed by an academic interest in the history of photography. The imagery is created in conversation with the European avant-garde lineage of lens-based and lens-less abstract image making, in particular László Moholy-Nagy, Gottfried Jäger, and Barbara Kasten.
Aesthetically I regard these images as reductive rather than “minimal.” Using a limited tonal palette and bold primary forms, I create visually challenging geometric abstractions. My earlier series, Vanishing Point (2011-2014), used found architectural details as a starting point; Studio Series: 2016-2017 provides me greater creative freedom by using table-top constructions and having full control of lighting. One physical phenomenon I exploit in this work is the expansive and contractive tendency of adjacent tonalities; high-key (white) areas expand into low-key (black) areas. This phenomenon occurs in all photographic images; however, the viewer is rarely aware of it in a sharply focused, full-tone print because it occurs on a minute scale.  By radically defocusing, using bold geometric shapes, and high contrast materials, the transition zones broaden and are readily visible. These active transition zones create a focal point attracting viewers attention due to the tonal gradation and film grain evident in them.
Some images in this series show strong signs of tonal expansion and contraction from both the original exposure and the printing process. Because my photographic printing is a negative process, the black areas of the print expand into the light areas. These conflicting phenomena create physical and optical illusions that underscore the non-representational qualities I seek. One other physical illusion that is readily apparent in many images is the rounding off of the 90° corners of rectangular forms due to the physics of light.

For me a successful image must work on multiple levels simultaneously, from theoretical to simple aesthetic enjoyment. My images are created without narrative intent. Regardless of the thought process and problem solving that brought them into being, my images are ultimately viewed through the viewer’s filter of experiences, prejudices and opinions.
Philip V Augustin, 2017
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