Free «"Landscape with Houses"» Essay Sample

James Casebere is a contemporary artist of the construction photography technique. His works are exhibited in Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Guggenheim Museum, Albert and Tate Museum in London, and in many others around the globe. The artist creates his works by photographing dioramic constructions which he makes using available materials. Since the start of his career in the 60s, James Casebere has been interested in means and methods of constructing histories and how photography can create and reconstruct reality.

The series of pictures Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County, NY), shot by the artist in the period from 2009 to 2014, manifests the domestic focus that was partly influenced by the mortgage crisis. The pictures do not have names, but each one from the series is numbered. The Dutchess County was constructed with the help of simple materials such as Styrofoam, cardboard, and plaster. “I was really working with the lights, recreating morning light, afternoon light, evening light, twilight, moonlight, all kinds of light to exhaust the possibilities and color,” the artist says (Ho). By artful manipulation of the camera and lights, Casebere created not only different time of the day but also different moods of his pictures. Producing these works he constructed “his grandest and most detailed model to date”of the community in Dutchess County, New York (“James Casebere”).

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I have decided to analyze and describe the picture Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County, NY) #7 shot in 2010. The photograph has the framed digital chromogenic print mounted to Dibond. Looking at the picture #7 with a peaceful landscape, the observer has a feeling of joy and peace. However, Casebere’s “still life” effect creates a feeling that there is not quite everything right and something is missing. This effect evokes a sense of sadness and loneliness as if the neighborhood were abandoned by its residents. But after taking a closer look, the observer understands that this is not quite true as there are people, he/she just cannot see them. For example, the car next to the beige house and the fire in the backyard are the evidence that the houses are not abandoned. Even though there are no humans in the picture, bright colors and familiar surroundings make it look inviting like everything is quite right, but still it seems that something is slightly wrong in that community.

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The work area has a 3-dymensional space. The artist used the modeling board and various props to create it. This is also achieved by the type of lines of the photograph – structural lines of the houses build volume of Casebere’s dioramic construction.

Natural and realistic shapes that people see in everyday life are created to represent the reality. Houses, trees, and road have the same shapes from a real world and accurately convey natural surroundings.

The artist uses natural colors of the real environment. Cool colors such as green, blue, and light-beige bring melancholic mood. Even though the color tones are bright, they create the feeling of loneliness lacking warm colors.

Casebere skillfully uses techniques of mixing light and dark, as a result it creates a 3-dimensional effect. The observer can see that shadows from the houses and trees fall on the green lawn as if the sun shines brightly in the sky. The sky, however, is not depicted in the picture and the observer does not know exactly what time of the day it can be. However, looking at long shadows of the objects, he/she can assume that the day is coming to its end and the sun is declining.

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The texture of the house and nature around is simulated. This effect evokes an illusive feeling that a picture was taken from a real life.

Despite the fact that the composition of the picture is simple, there are various details which constantly catch the observer’s eye. The blue house and its details such as the white roof, windows, ladder etc. come to our vision first. Then a person sees the surroundings of the house such as smoke coming from the fire in the backyard, the storehouse and boat on the lawn, neighboring houses, pines and other deciduous trees, the ravine behind the white house and green grass.

The perspective of the picture is achieved by using the scale and placement of overlapping objects in the distance and making close objects larger to create an illusion of depth and reality.

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Proportions of objects in the pictures are preserved so they reproduce real life surroundings, and the scale of the environment is realistically represented.

The artist uses the technique of Radial Balance which revolves around a central point – the blue house. The observer sees the house with its details, smoke and a storehouse in the backyard, moving eyes to other houses and surrounding nature but not losing touch with the blue house. This technique puts emphasis on the harmony between architecture and nature. The feeling of peace and relax arouse; a desire to take a walk up the hill becomes apparent.

All the elements of the design of the picture are interconnected and reveal the overall unity of the objects in the photograph – houses stand in the right places and trees grow on the lawns around.

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Even though the photograph is simple, it still has some degree of variety achieved by picturing three houses, different objects in the backyard, fuming fire, car in the driveway, and many trees.

The movement is created by the real depiction of the fume which gives an impression that the fire is burning at that moment. It is also not completely clear if the car is moving in the driveway or it is parked because of the obscure image behind the fume, but an impression of the movement of the car is also present.

James Casebere is probably the most famous photographer of dioramic constructions known at present. His pictures convey the mood of his time, just like in case with the Landscape with Houses created after the mortgage crisis.

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