Welcome to your weekly photographic inspiration, a regular column where I bring the best the world of professional photography has to offer right to you!
The first photographer I'd like to feature is the winner of the Aperture Foundation's 2013 Portfolio Award. For those of you not in the know (which I assume is everyone who will be reading this post), Aperture is an organization that keeps the international photography community connected through various on- and offline publications, exhibitions, contests, and educational programs, including an extensive commitment to publishing photobooks.
Bryan Schutmaat only just received his MFA in photography in 2012, so for him to be receiving the kind of critical acclaim that's been pouring his way is pretty awesome. As it so happens, Bryan studied under Richard Renaldi, whose Touching Strangers project has been making the rounds this summer. While Renaldi's work is ripe with great social commentary, I find myself gravitating much more to his protégé's work. Renaldi tends towards the unglamorous in his photos, and while Schutmaat's subject matter isn't inherently more alluring, his impeccable color palettes and use of narrow focus create some absolutely awe-inspiring images.
Schutmaat's award-winning portfolio, Grays the Mountain Sends, is in a way nothing new to the medium--if there's one thing professional photographers will never tire of, it seems to be a good old fashioned abandoned, dilapidated, or otherwise depressed American neighborhood. Yet Schutmaat's subjects, the people and landscapes of American mining towns, exhibit a sort of beauty that is usually absent or ironically subverted in similar projects from other artists. His artist's statement on the series gives a revealing look into his thought process:
Schutmaat exercises a complete stylistic and atmospheric mastery over his subjects, deftly jumping from magnificent vistas to quiet portraits and stills of small town life (sometimes combining all three in a single image) all while maintaining a coherent thematic and visual thread from image to image. If you've ever tried assembling a photo portfolio of your own, you know how difficult it can be to sustain motifs from the beginning of the project to its end, especially if you aren't limiting yourself to a single species of subject matter; and even if you're just a casual admirer of photography, I think it's still easy to tell that Schutmaat's work showcases some really spectacular talent. I'm equally impressed by how his work doesn't exude cynicism or nihilism in the way that many explorations of run-down rural America tend to be.As Schutmaat himself said, this project is more interested in introspection than in making loud political statements--although there are certainly socially conscious undertones running throughout the portfolio.
Have a look at some more sample images below, and be sure to check out his website for the full portfolio and some of his other, earlier projects.
All images © Bryan Schutmaat.