As a society we have come to embrace a culture that is predominately visual in its approach to relaying information. Our generation is capable of consuming more images in less time than any before it. Every day we are exposed to momentary flashes of light and sound in everything from advertisements to PowerPoint presentations.
This week the Nancy and William Oliver Gallery is hosting Observations in Photometry, an installment by USF photography student Heather Linton. Upon entering the gallery, viewers might have trouble finding a focal point amid the large number of images presented. Placed on the slightly glossy white walls of the Oliver Gallery are 219 images, each 8 inches by 8 inches.
Displayed are images of light, the majority of which appear to have been taken at night or in a dark setting. These are not pictures of light bulbs and sunsets, but rather depictions of the photographic manipulation of a given light source. To be exact, the photographs are taken at night using both a low shutter speed and a low ISO, which is the sensitivity of film to light. Whereas the average photograph has a shutter speed of 1/60 of a second, Linton’s photographs require a shutter speed of 20-30 seconds. By leaving the shutter open for longer periods of time while moving the camera, the light becomes blurred, creating a luminescent effect evident in the work displayed.
Using this technique, it is possible to achieve the spirals, waves and dizzy lines of light reminiscent of most default screen savers or even the plasma balls with the purple bands of light found in Spencer’s Gifts years ago. Linton’s digital images depict an array of colored light in motion, looking almost electric in some of the images and slightly blurred in others. The sharp contrast between light and dark allows the light source to really stand out.
“In making Observations in Photometry, I found a way to display the very essence of the photographic image: light and its properties,” Linton said.
However, the visual significance of the exhibit cannot disguise the overall lack of content within the work itself. Viewers may find themselves pondering if Linton is trying to convey anything other than the flashy, bright images that are displayed – any real meaning is not easily discernable. There are really no thought-provoking elements apparent within this body of work. As it stands, the exhibit seems to be more of a superficial display of ‘eye candy’ than anything else.
Additionally, it seems as if Linton is relatively detached from the work, investing little to no real passion in the collection, which may make audiences feel removed as well. The images are placed evenly apart, only inches from each other in rows up to 15 across, but no more than three down, creating a banner-like effect that spans the entire wall space of the room. The placement and organization of the images is appealing in that their strategic situation occupies the center of the walls, where the eye may travel naturally. The haphazard and organic content of the photographs is contrasted with the careful and geometric arrangement of the images. The presentation of the images is very well executed and clean-cut.
In considering this body of work in larger terms, it is disquieting that a show with as little substance as Observations in Photometry was approved by the Oliver Gallery. That approval advocates it as a testimony to the quality of work produced by the student body within the College of Visual and Performing Arts. It is work like this that segregates those involved in the arts from the rest of the student body, for a collection such as Linton’s may be brushed off by students outside of the arts community as just another example of art that they don’t understand. The truth is, there is plenty of good art being made by fellow USF students; it is just not currently on display in the Oliver Gallery.
In short, Observations in Photometry is little more than a pretty collection of images that is best considered at face value.
Observations in Photometry is on display at the William and Nancy Oliver Gallery until Friday, Sept. 14. Hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The closing reception for the show is Friday, Sept. 14, from 7-9 p.m. Refreshments will be served.