Gone Away ~ The journal of Clive Allen in America

Card Art
Many years ago in Zimbabwe I had a friend named Phil - the same guy who appears in my post entitled Chimanimani in fact. I mentioned that he was a photographer but that says very little about Phil's artistic talent; he was, in fact, a genius.

When I first met Phil, he was trying to be a painter and produced strange works with an eerily innocent feeling to them that inspired an answering painting by myself in tribute. But he was becoming frustrated by his limited technical ability; he had never studied technique in a formal setting and was reaching the point where he could no longer do justice to the pictures in his head. That was when he discovered photography.

From that moment we saw little of Phil; he was always off somewhere on a photographic project, returning at rare intervals to show us the most fascinating and original photographs I have ever seen. His eye for the unusual and beautiful was unerring. Very quickly he found his metier, a concentration on the tiny details, the unnoticed beauty in everday things - what we would call macro-photography now (no, I've never understood why it is not called micro-photography either - presumably it has something to do with the fact that it uses macro lenses). In Phil's hands, the camera became an eye into another universe where lichen on a pebble became a new world and moss at the edge of a stream a seething jungle.

But Phil wanted more. He packed his bags and went off to university in England to study photography. Years later, when I too came to England, he was working as a freelance commercial photographer in London and occasionally he would visit to show us his latest work.

Sadly, it was typical of the commercial photography world: slick, sharp images of cars on a beach in the dawn light, that kind of thing. Gone was the eye for the unusual, the strange beauty of the miniature world that passes unseen for most of us. Phil knew what was happening too. He accepted that his bread and butter was in these sophisticated images designed to sell and looked forward to a time when he could express himself freely again.

Time passed and Phil moved to Germany where there was more opportunity to make big money. And then, just a few years ago, he dropped in on us on his way to America. He was off to the land of the free to make his fortune and now lives somewhere in California, still working as a commercial photographer.

But what brought Phil to mind was that recently I have come into contact with a branch of commercial photography that could have been made for him. Weirdly, it's the selling of credit cards. And there are plenty of very ordinary photographs out there that try to sell us on the whole idea.

But just a few photographers have realized where the real beauty of credit cards resides - how to make them almost irresistibly attractive. It's macro-photography that does it.

Show a hand proffering a wad of these cards and they look so ordinary that we shrug and move on. But get really close and into the tiny details and suddenly they become a landscape of rich, glowing colors, eerily metallic protuberances and misty distances, yet always they remain instantly recognizable as the humble credit card.

I have begun to collect these images, so fascinated by their strange beauty have I become. The fact that they are designed to sell is now irrelevant - I see them as works of art. You may laugh and consider me weird, that's fine, but take a look at just a few examples from my collection and tell me that these are not somehow fascinating and beautiful to look at.

Credit cards

Now that I reflect on Phil's ability to make the ordinary special, I wonder if he has had something to do with this trend in the photography of credit cards. He once invented and sold plastic ice cubes to other photographers so he certainly has the inventive and entrepreneurial skills to have done so...

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It's amazing that you can take a picture of something that people just have in their wallets and make it look artistic...nice work
Date Added: 15/10/2006

Gone Away
Thanks, Janus. The ability to see things in new ways is a talent that we should value, I think.
Date Added: 15/10/2006

You, Phil and Pro-Nutro...what a great adventure!

An assignment I recall that made a class of photog students groan: shoot 24 different views of a hen egg.

I see form and color -- the essence of art
Date Added: 16/10/2006

Gone Away
It was a great adventure indeed, Way. And only came about because Phil wanted to photograph some things up there.

But the hen's egg exercise reminds me of my first week in drawing class - we were shown a chair piled high with planks paint pots and junk and told to draw it. Over and over again until we got it right. By the end of that week we could draw! And you're right - those credit card photos capture the essence of art...
Date Added: 16/10/2006

Everything looks beautiful at the right angle.
Date Added: 20/10/2006

Gone Away
What, even me, Rusty? ;)
Date Added: 20/10/2006

Having worked for a while in the image department of a news agency i have become very appreciative of the photograph. The right image is truly worth a thousand words.

There is an image i had to work with that is forever etched into my mind. It was taken during the first Gulf war and to my mind sums up the horror of war. I have included the link but be warned it is gruesome and disturbing. War
This image was used exetensively throughout the worlds media and was then used in a university book debating the use of images in the media. The version linked above is only a small part of the original which displays the whole front of the cab and (believe it or not) is even moire horrific when the grinning skull is made to appear as just a small part of the image rather than the focal point.

anyway i guess thats all a little off topic....i blame the jetlag.

IMO the credit card shots work because of the metallic feel to the image they create. I dont think there is anything untoward about your collection of these Images, in fact now you are in the US are you not supposed to worship such icons?

Talking of metallic things, did i tell you about my new motherboard? now thats one Sexy Image
Date Added: 23/10/2006

Gone Away
Not a pleasant picture at all, Keef. And war is full of them. As for the credit cards, I agree that it's the metallic look that is a large part of their attraction in these photos. But worship them? Heck, I don't even have one. :D All motherboards are sexy...
Date Added: 24/10/2006

I recall the joy of being given a 'Reversing Ring'. It may sound dangerous, but if used well can produce pics such as the ones you show. Macro photography is a joy. My poor lil' digital compact has no hope against a well-aimed 35mm armed with the aforementioned. But one day I am going to get one of those new (expensive) digital equals to 35mm wonders and explore... The joys of photography.
Date Added: 28/10/2006

Gone Away
My ambition is exactly the same, Fractal! I used to have a 35mm SLR (just a Zenit but it was my pride and joy) and one day I will be rich enough to get a digital SLR (haha, that'll be the day). Then let the world look out!
Date Added: 28/10/2006

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