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A Collection of Visually Flat Photographs Explore the Surface of Your Computer Screen

Nico_Krijno_Photography
Photo: Nico Krijno

The major 2010 exhibition Surface Tension at the Metropolitan Museum presented an array of photographers interrogating the surface of their photographs. Including artists the likes of Adam Fuss and Vik Muniz, this show had a lasting impact on the way I look at photography. The “surface” being dealt with in the show was clearly the printed surface of a physical photograph. Currently, in the age of tumblr where photography is consumed voraciously through the web and works are often not seen in person, I have been noticing a different kind of surface tension. Photography dealing with flatness is experiencing a digital resurgence among emerging artists, and instead of addressing the surface of a photographic print they explore the surface of your computer screen.

Three emerging artists making photographs in this way are Maurice van Es, Nico Krijno, and Kyle Laidig. Their work has in common an element of humor, an enjoyment of surface, and a proclivity for extreme visual flatness. Rather than functioning as a window, these images decorate the picture plane in a way that is akin to painting, yet makes great use of the exhaustive detail photography affords. Flatness in these images is achieved in a number of ways. Flat lighting, often on-camera flash, prevents shadows from describing the dimensionality of objects portrayed. Flatness also comes as a result of squaring a flat subject with the plane of the camera, or combining patterns to create a dizzying effect, forcing us to refocus on the surface of the image. Breaks in the surface occur tonally. These photographers are conscious of the property of luminosity inherent in viewing photographs on computer displays, and they use this extra variable to great effect.

Nico_Krijno_Photography
Photo: Nico Krijno

Nico_Krijno_Photography
Photo: Nico Krijno

Nico_Krijno_Photography
Photo: Nico Krijno

Maurice_van_Es_Photography
Photo: Maurice van Es

Maurice_van_Es_Photography
Photo: Maurice van Es

Maurice_van_Es_Photography
Photo: Maurice van Es

Maurice_van_Es_Photography
Photo: Maurice van Es

Kyle_Laidig_Photography
Photo: Kyle Laidig

Kyle_Laidig_Photography
Photo: Kyle Laidig

Kyle_Laidig_Photography
Photo: Kyle Laidig

Kyle_Laidig_Photography
Photo: Kyle Laidig

Feature Shoot Contributing Editor Matthew Leifheit is an independent writer, curator, and photographer based in New York City.

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