Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Big Shots

by R.C. Baker @ The Village Voice

The San Francisco–based photographer John Chiara grew up with a large tumor hanging from his chin; for medical reasons, it couldn't be removed until he was 15. The artist says that, as a kid, he was "really outgoing" until the benign growth was excised, after which he suddenly "got all shy." Something similar is going on with his large, one-of-a-kind landscapes shot with a ridiculously ungainly camera the size of a U-Haul trailer, which he tows around the Bay Area in search of resolutely unspectacular vistas. You won't see any inspiring shots of the Golden Gate here, just self-effacing images of serpentine curbs fronting scrubby hills or rooftops fringed with jagged foliage. Each photo is named after a different intersection, such as Sunnydale at Russia. The titles heighten the deadpan allure of these dark prints, as does Chiara's working method: He crawls through a trapdoor into his mobile camera, focuses the lens, tapes up a five-foot-wide sheet of Ilfachrome paper, then uses his hands to dodge and burn the image during the typical 20- to 40-minute exposure.


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