Seitz Photo 54

This is the gift I gave my brother for Christmas – it’s the first print I’ve made of Photo 54.

54 is one of those photos that I forgot after I took it.  For many months it remained on disk, in a pool of images that weren’t marked for further consideration.

Every once in a while I take a random look through my “rejects,” and last time I did so, this image stopped me.  Was someone staring at me through the computer screen?  As I looked closer, I couldn’t tell whether there was a person or a mannequin in the suit.

After being so startled by this abandoned image, I decided to make a print.  The discrepancy between “on screen” and “print” is different for each photo: some photos give me a similar experience in both settings, whereas others need to be seen in physical form.  I only realized that eerie 54 was a keeper when I finally held the print in my hands.

The tuxedo is seen from behind a scratched plastic window.  If you viewed this setting in real life, your eye would immediately tell you that the scratches and smudges were on the window, not on the surface of the tuxedo.  And that distinction remains clear when 54 is seen on screen.  One special quality of the print is how two layers of texture get flattened: it looks like to me like an artist drew the tuxedo glove with white chalk and then deliberately smudged it over a drawing surface.  And that’s something I love to explore: how unedited photographs can have a painted or drawn quality simply by virtue of how their elements interact.

54 ended up with the color scheme of an antique photo even though it isn’t antique and hasn’t been post-processed.  The antique look came about naturally and, to my eyes, seems fitting for the subject.

My portfolio has around 100 images as of now, and it’s always interesting to me when a viewer quickly focuses on one among all of those.  (I sometimes wonder: what if I hadn’t taken that one?)  My brother chose this one quickly, with no deliberation, and my whole family helped me frame it on Christmas day. ■

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