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Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu

Layered Constructions in the Frame - Alex Webb and The Suffering of the Light

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One of the most compelling influences for Muay Thai photography can come from cinema. Instead of the "sports reporter" history of fight photography, I believe we should draw on the much wider language of cinematic expression. It's roots lie very deep in our subconscious, and evocations of light and color languages open up worlds of the possible when trying to grasp not only a sport, but a culture. That is one reason why I've been studying the films (and thinking) of cinematographer Roger Deakins. His Sicario, Blade Runner 2049, No Country for Old Men have a lot to teach and share. What is cool is that Roger Deakins has a podcast with his wife James, so it isn't just on the level of images that one can dialogue with him.

One of the things that he makes clear is that he himself is inspired by still photographers, and one in particular he keeps returning to...Alex Webb. Above his a collection of his images from The Suffering of Light.

Deakins is clearly taken by what he imagines is the highly constructed nature of Alex Webb's frames. So much tension, juxtaposition, and layering. You can see all of it above, frames within frames, staggering of space. This is what was thinking of when I advocated for wide-lens photography for Muay Thai, the idea of spatial, situational inclusion, instead of just the "hero frame", as Brad Pitt calls it. What Alex invites is the staggering of space, so that the eye pinballs through the frame, forward and back. Many of his photos are beautifully jagged.

What is kind of interesting is how Deakins mis-imagines Webb's process, something he has thought long and hard about in his own artist fantasy. He seemed to picture Webb being very precise, kind of constructing the frame in advance, and then squeezing off a few precious photos, whereas Webb insists that he shoots prodigiously, lots and lots of frames, and that he only senses the possibility of the shot. It isn't until he looks later at what he has does he fully know if he got it. This is just a very interesting juxtaposition of influences. Deakins (cinematographically) looks at the finished project of Webb's (still photography) process, inspired by that perfect balance of tension, space and color, and then (I imagine) goes about constructing his own shots, in a much more controlled way. This seems like the inverse relationship between still photography (street) and cinematography. Webb using the frame to hunt, using his developed instincts, where as Deakins builds the frame in his mind, and then duplicates it in (dynamic) diaoramic practice.

You can listen to their discussion here:

https://www.rogerdeakins.com/team-deakins-podcast/episode-30-alex-webb-stills-photographer/

 

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