Gonzales photo exhibit captures bodies in motion.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
Fat clouds sit on top of green hills outside the Blackstone Winery’s Tasting Room in Gonzales on a blue sky April afternoon, while what appear to be fake white geese gather in a cluster by the winery’s entrance. It’s a perfect presentation, but upon approach, the geese stand up and nervously swarm a visitor.
Inside the Mediterranean-styled building that houses the tasting room, in a room behind the polished bar, glass doors lead to a gallery hung with black-and-white prints. From a distance, some of the images resemble geometric patterns. Upon closer inspection, many of the photographs are brushed with a blur of the human form.
Jim Kasson’s series, Alone In A Crowd, features work like “Escalator, San Francisco Bus Station, 1991,” where the elements of the architecture of public buildings dominate the photograph, and the human passage is documented only by a blurred, often shadowy outline.
“I’ve always been fascinated by motion blur,” Kasson says. “I like the way it looks, the fluidity. I don’t know how it’s going to come out. It seems to work with architecture. You get some sense of the transience with the blur.”
Kasson says he became interested in documenting the loneliness of travel when, while killing time on a business trip in Switzerland in the ‘80s, he wandered into a train station. He experimented with setting his folding German-made Plaubel Makina camera on posts in the station and leaving the shutter open for a long exposure. The long shutter time allowed the form of the station to be better exposed in low-light conditions but created a predictable motion blur in his human subjects. Kasson felt that the result captured the emotional experience of travel. “People deal with the forced crowding of travel by forming a protective cocoon,” he says. Many of the figures become silhouettes in his photographs, adding to the sense of them being shrouded and hidden.
The images in the series were shot 15 some years ago, and with several different cameras. Kasson says he felt many were unprintable at the time. With the recent advances in digital printing and computer programs, Kasson says, he was able to print the photos to his satisfaction, bringing out details like the steel girders arcing across a train station skylight in Bristol, England.
Details in other images, like the mosaic patterned tiles on the walls of Central Station in Southampton, England, pop out with an almost three-dimensional sense of texture, alongside the distorted shadow of a woman passing by.
With works like these, the sense of loneliness is less intense than the almost tactile experience of form.
In “Escalator, Dupont Circle Station, Washington Metro, Washington, DC, 1990,” shadowy figures ride a deeply angled shiny escalator inside womb-like curved walls towards a half-oval of light. The outline of a man in the foreground wearing a bowler hat seems to be from another era.
The strange movement of the photograph evokes a visceral reaction. Are the dark forms heading towards life? Towards death? Is there a meaning?
“People read a lot of things into this one,” Kasson smiles.
Eric Bosler, who teaches photography at Hartnell College and curated the exhibit, feels that regardless of Kasson’s intention, his work succeeds mainly because it is visually arresting.
“I don’t think the idea of being alone is what most people carry away, through my anecdotal observations,” Bosler admits. “But Kasson’s got one of the most acute eyes I’ve seen. This sounds trite, but it’s quite true, that the beauty he is able to generate out of the experience is what most people are stricken with.”
Alone In A Crowd hangs at the Blackstone Winery, 800 South Alta St., Gonzales, until July 24, 2005. 675-5341.