3/07/10 3:36 PM
So many obligations confront the serious artist that they must sometimes feel like blackmail. The obligation to choose a consistent style, to commit to a medium, to focus on a singular subject — not to mention the decidedly contemporary obligations to be ironic and conceptual, and to make art about art. In The Photographer’s Brother, Francis Schanberger presents a series of photographic diptychs that solve this artistic crime without having to pay any ransom. Each pair presents a well-made print in one style or another joined together with a documentary image of the “photographer” at work making the image in question. The series thus moves from a romantic botanical still life of fresh beets to a modernist nature study of lichen to a conceptual depiction of foam peanuts, without ever seeming scattershot or amateur. On the contrary, Schanberger’s titular conceit, that the photographer’s “brother” is documenting him as he makes his images, holds together coyly but accessibly, allowing Schanberger to make whatever kinds of images he wants to, whatever their style or subject matter, while simultaneously taking a step back to make work that is also about making work. What keeps this last interesting is that in the images of the photographer at work it’s impossible to tell what the final image will look like — and that, in the end, is why we continue to look at other people’s pictures.