Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Stitch in Time

Civic Stadium (photo by Dennis Galloway)

Dennis Galloway is a local photographer who contacted me after finding my blog. He thought that I might find his work interesting, particularly his “widescreen” panoramic images of buildings and spaces.

His panoramas are stitched together electronically from a half dozen or more digital photographs. They often display a level of detail that is remarkable, “positively voyeuristic” in the words of Register-Guard writer Bob Keefer. Keefer wrote on the occasion of an exhibit of Dennis’ work at the Eugene Public Library in 2008.

“The immense level of detail that can be captured by even fairly ordinary digital cameras, once you start stitching images together, opens new frontiers in photography that have hitherto been the exclusive province of large-format photographers.

“Their construction as widescreen panoramas adds yet another dimension to the experience. Galloway rotates his camera through 180 degrees or more while making these photos; a simple square room becomes a visual puzzle to be solved.”

Bob Keefer, The Register-Guard, September 18, 2008

Artist's studio panorama (photo by Dennis Galloway)

Dennis does not specialize in architectural photography. Perhaps this is why I find his approach to depicting architecture intriguing. He does not feel bound by the conventions of that trade, such as perspective control. He isn’t necessarily concerned with composing and editing photographs to conform to commonly accepted distortions in constructed perspective.

Lillis Hall, University of Oregon (photo by Dennis Galloway)

A problem with conventional architectural photography is that it emphasizes scenographic representations of buildings from static vantages. Compositions of individual images are stressed rather than exploration or explication of the dynamic spaces shaped by the architecture.

Architect and author William Hubbard took exception to the emphasis upon scenographic representations of buildings and spaces in his 1981 book Complicity and Conviction: Steps Toward An Architecture of Convention. For Hubbard, such an emphasis leads to a failure to establish a deeper basis for liking buildings because carefully composed, static images do not tell us of values that are deeper or more important to us. The ultimate goal of the scenographic approach is a pretty picture, not necessarily a more informative documentation of the subject matter.

Hult Center for the Performing Arts (photo by Dennis Galloway)

Rather than idealized representations from a single perspective, Dennis Galloway’s composite images are analogous to Cubist paintings, wherein the flux of time, motion, and space were expressed more dynamically than by the conventional art that preceded it. Like the Cubists, Dennis depicts his subjects from a multitude of viewpoints, conveying a greater context than is possible utilizing a scenographic approach.

In addition to his panoramic photography, Dennis is not hesitant to employ High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging techniques, merging multiple exposures to depict a wider range of luminances than is possible from a single image. He uses HDR to achieve exaggerated local contrasts for artistic effect. Again, Dennis is less focused upon “realistic” or idealized representations of architecture. Instead, his goal is to utilize every tool at his disposal to deliberately affect the viewer’s perception of his images.

U.S. Post Office, Eugene (photo by Dennis Galloway)

No photograph or set of photos can replace actually experiencing a work of architecture in person. No matter how evocative an image may be, it remains a limited, two-dimensional representation of a much more complex reality. No photograph can come close to portraying an authentic, multi-sensory architectural experience. This is why I have a problem with design awards programs. In many instances, projects are awarded by juries solely on the basis of submitted photographs.

Eugene Public Library (photo by Dennis Galloway)

Nevertheless, Dennis Galloway’s work points to how photography can do more to suggest in two dimensions the multi-dimensionality of architecture and space. Panoramic and HDR imagery will not replace conventional photo documentation of architecture. On the other hand, such techniques can augment standard, perspective-corrected imagery to more fully convey the substance of the architecture being depicted.

If you’re interested in learning more about Dennis’ work, check out his websites at the following URLs:

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