By Ashley Bennett
The days of analog film have long since passed. Digital reigns supreme; but, in contemporary society, images have turned into a momentary expression of time and place instead of a cherished memory. Images are supposed to be taken to record an experience that cannot be replicated—but sadly, they aren’t always that way, and they aren’t even often looked back on; they get stashed away or live in some digital wasteland, to sadly be forgotten.
Artist Job Piston is well-known in his ability to photograph, compose and expose images of identity, desire, trust and the correlation between relationships and images. He uses and reuses models and friends as revered subjects. In UCR ARTSblock’s latest series of “Flash!” photographic exhibitions, Piston gets a chance to explore the gap between digital and analog photography while also exploring color theory, personal expression and the human experience.
Piston hails from the creative reaches of New York but he earned his BFA at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco with a BFA in 2006, and an MFA at UCLA in 2010. In that time his work has been exhibited in many notable artistic hubs in New York, San Francisco and of course, neighboring Los Angeles.
Piston witnessed the unfortunate fate of both physical photographs and the sinkhole of digital photos, and often finds inspiration in that major jump. As a representation of past and present, Piston created a process to merge the two eras, in his production of Reds. Through the two mediums, a new kind of image was born: A hybrid photogram.
Traditionally, photograms are created by placing objects against light-sensitive material. The final product is a stark black background with a silhouetted imprint of the item(s) in white and gray, much like that of an x-ray. However, Piston’s process exposes a digital image, through the brightened light of an LCD laptop display onto light-sensitive photo paper. The resulting images became a staggeringly bright red, bleeding and swimming out into orange and yellow.
Split between two worlds, each piece in Reds hovers between old technology and new. The image is clear but the surrounding border of each photo is rimmed with red and extends into orange, filling the rest of the exposed space with varying yellows. Half of each image features one of Piston’s famed models, but due to the nature of the process, the other half of the photo exhibits nothing at all. No doubt, an unlit keyboard is invisibly present, an unfinished statement to the extra space below each image.
Piston’s Oisin, for example, features the image of a young man posing in front of a seemingly blazing red background, standing proud and sturdy, wearing only a pair of white suspenders as he looks at the viewer. One can’t help but continue the fixation of his gaze, as the piece invokes seduction in the little clothing he wears. In his pose, viewers can only conjure their own completion of the image, as the bottom of the image cuts off mid-torso.
The piece entitled Nar is quite the opposite, featuring the gaze of a woman enveloped in shadows. She is only half illuminated with her chin in her hand, while the rest of her body is shadowed in a background of darkness. Unlike the man featured in Oisin, this woman is not willing to bare it all, so to speak. Instead her many features are closed and inaccessible by darkness with just enough light to expose her presence.
“Flash: Job Piston” at UCR/California Museum of Photography, 3824 Main St., Riverside, (951) 827-4787; www.cmp.ucr.edu. On view thru Feb. 22, 2014.