Urban Origami, the Photography of Seth Taras (ArtWeek.LA January 2012)
Blending a commercial and artistic sensibility into his photography and pursuing writing movie trailers and taglines, Taras demonstrates a rare versatility that like his photos harmonizes unlikely elements.
Self-taught American photographer Seth Taras carefully describes his pictures as falling more into “strains” than a “series,” thus the distinction reflects a familiar arterial line of inspiration which flows through works taken across many years and around the globe. Whether the subjects are opulent interiors, studies of found objects on the street, or candid and often times voyeuristic profiles of beautiful people basking in the comfort of their own flesh, the photographs resist ever feeling as though they are landscapes, portraits, or street scenes rather are connected by a common “strain” of the artist’s own fascination. The narrative for the photographs after they are taken as Taras explains he “didn’t start out creating pictures with any pretenses of conclusions.” Documenting urbanity through an unflinching lens Taras does not aim to “capture people or environments as they naturally appear but rather ‘accurately’ interpret what the experience felt like.” The visceral interpretation, which Taras describes in Horizontal and Vertical Environs where lavish interiors, vacant cathedrals, and human forms like a biker seated on a chopper are constrained within the narrow perimeters of the frame. The scenes of urban and natural life are compressed and distorted which demands that the viewer adjust their perspective. Taras speaks to the encroaching perimeters as a “measure of distortion inherent in some of my cameras the bend of perspective.” He continues to admit that he is “less interested in visual ‘accuracy’ and more concerned with harmonizing the various elements to achieve an ideal in the frame by constraining chaos.”
In a moment marked by digital photography Seth Taras follows in the tradition of using film. Born into a family of creatives (his grandfather worked as an interior designer who created bronze and wood sculptures in spare time, while his great uncle was a renowned “Golden Age” cartoonist), for Taras art feels natural and intrinsic. The medium of film offered Taras the opportunity to “create singular and ‘unreproducable’ pictures.” While he photographs around the world, Los Angeles and New York City represent two distinct creative opportunities as unique as the cities themselves. Beginning to practice photography in New York City with black and white film, Taras built an extensive and private darkroom to learn the complexities, nuances and unexpected possibilities in film and printing. He admits to the differences in his photos from the East and West Coast by describing that “New York was dominated by the time I spent taking street pictures at all hours of the night and in Los Angeles I started exploring daylight pictures in architecture, interiors and colors in a completely new way.” While characterized by experimentation in light and darkness, the common thread that appears in the photographs is an intent desire to observe and report the world as it comes into view of the camera.
Observations take inventory of found objects on worn pavement and function in a similar manner that a match cut does in cinema. By finding a connective thread in found subjects, a visual narrative of symmetry unites an otherwise disjointed landscape. A succession of pot holes with moss growing around the perimeters, gathering rubbish, and a discarded turntable speak to artificial circles found in nature, while discarded gloves and hand prints in pavement suggest an effort for a man to leave a human mark on the Earth. Taras even appears in several of the photographs as caught in the afternoon sun or as a reflection in a puddle of water with gathering three red pedals shaped like a lotus. The observations point to a world of excess where a jar of crushed red kidney beans that have been partially stomped on vaguely resemble a heart, torn advertisements from penny savers and advertorials decorate gutters, and the legs of dismembered mannequins serve no use. They are reflections of a lost childhood with a turned over scooter, pair of shoes and bib, and point to the past of Los Angeles by capturing the famed ice cream stand in the Farmers Market lined with green wooden shopping carts.
Caught in the cataclysmic moment of the past and present, it is no surprise that Taras would be awarded the Luezer’s Archive 200 Best Photographers Worldwide Prize for his brand campaign for Know Where You Stand for the History Channel.” Using phantom black etched images of World War II soldiers juxtaposed with contemporary images of the beach of Normandy and a disgruntled Hitler standing beside two lovers in front of the Eiffel Tower, the worldwide campaign brought a contemporary perspective to the past that shaped our present. Taras embraces history as he feels that “waking up everyday with a sense of nostalgia and maybe a little dread that everything we know has to end. That notion lends itself to real appreciation of the present.”
Looking ahead Taras admits that the narrative of his artistic practice feels as though “is going according to plan.” He continues to say that my artistic practice falls into parallel aspects of photography and writing. I’ve written fiction all my life and over the past several years taught myself to write for the screen.” Blending a commercial and artistic sensibility into his photography and pursuing writing movie trailers and taglines, Taras demonstrates a rare versatility that like his photos harmonizes unlikely elements.
Caption for First Grid: Early Pictures by Seth Taras
Caption for Second Grid: Verticals by Seth Taras
All images courtesy of the artist