Posts Tagged ‘visual language’

The Photography of Bruce Peterson

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

When the photographer Bruce Peterson told me that his goal was to make his personal and commercial work indistinguishable, I think he was referring mostly to the visual treatment he gives the objects in front of his camera. I’ve been living with a large black and white photograph of his for about ten years that I traded for one of my prints, and there are many things I appreciate about what he does that he would probably concede are unique to his personal work.

The things that both the art images and the advertising work have in common are really wonderful: a sense of scale that forces the viewer to think differently about the subject; lighting that emphasizes an object’s three-dimensional qualities without totally eliminating its mystery; and a sharpness and focus to the images that shouts “I am!”

While he’s made some serious contributions to the visual language of advertising—much appreciated by this graphic designer—it is his own personal work that has particularly captivated me. He has said that he “tend[s] to be attracted to things that are used, or worn—unique objects that have already had a life and have some character.” What I’ve noticed is that these objects are often put into whimsical combinations which inspire serious reverie—not infrequently old toys which speak to contemporary and serious themes. In this work, too, there are no backgrounds except for the occasional shadow; the only reality are the objects themselves—divorced from a context, we conjure up stories and reasons for their existence. And finally, his placement of the subject matter within the picture plane—sometimes cropped, other times in one corner or another—plays with our own relationship to his material.

At some point, I hope that he has an opportunity to exhibit this body of work in a gallery. (He’s about to have a show within an advertising agency in Boston, but it would seem to be a private exhibition for the folks who hire him for commercial work.) For now, you’ll have to explore his portfolio.