shoots with a large-format 4'x5' Sinar camera using a technique known as selective focus, or "tilt-shift
." Sinar is an acronym for Studio, Industry, Nature, Architecture, Reproduction, and it's not a coincidence that the Brazilian photographer chose a camera normally used for architectural photography to create the distorted images of his hometown now on view at 1500 Gallery
(through March 26). By shifting the location of the negative in the camera, Edinger is able to create a concentrated area of focus in an otherwise blurred landscape. Through this displacement, the viewer is removed from the scene, as one might casually view a model reproduction of a city, or observe a patch of ground while floating over the residents of an ordered urban jungle. There's a feeling of isolated omnipotence, of being not in the scene, but above or beyond it.
Edinger was one of the purveyors of this technique, along with Olivo Barbieri
, though today anyone can use Lens Blur Interface in Photoshop to create a similar "miniature faking" effect. However, Edinger uses this technique not as a camera trick, but to make a statement about our inner lives. In an email, Edinger writes, "I am after universal images that come from deep inside us–inside our collective unconscious–and help us reflect on the way we live, our needs, [and] our absurd loneliness."
Andrew S. Klug founded 1500 Gallery with his partner, Alexandre Bueno de Moraes, earlier this year in Chelsea. They began working with Edinger three months ago, though they've been fans of his photography for a long time. In a telephone interview, Klug said, "São Paulo is a city of wide contrasts and contradictions and he's expressing that visually." Oscar Niemeyer
's distinctive modernist structures make an appearance, as do the last remaining bit of rain forest in central São Paulo, a forlorn couch under a graffiti-covered expressway, and illuminated panels on the ceiling of one of the city's famous cathedrals. There are lush, immaculate gardens populated by statues rather than people, and wide streets where a thin strip of arches competes with the minuscule denizens of the largest city in Brazil. It's a jarring experience to wander through the gallery and attempt to take it all in; you can't help but feel transported by the hazy, shifting foreground, as if you were a glaucomatous deity who temporarily lost its bearings.
Edinger writes, "What we see outside is just a pretext for unraveling the biggest mystery in the world: who we are." The twelve images at the gallery present more than merely a city out of focus: they show us the strangeness of modernity. We are used to seeing the human scale of a city, but Edinger's photographs urge us to look beyond the street level and see how the wealthy metropolis functions, albeit from an aestheticized distance. The grit and poverty are removed, but gridlocked traffic, modernist architecture, and luxuriant vegetation remain. Blocky concrete apartment buildings nudge their way into Ibirapuera Park
, while a few feet away, commuters move through the train station at a frenetic pace. If one of them stopped in the middle of the station, perhaps they might have seen a man crouched over a large camera, observing it all.
(images courtesy Claudio Edinger, 1500 Gallery)