Friday, January 17, 2014

Inspirations #31: Frederick Sommer

Frederick Sommer once stated, "Climatic conditions in the West give things time to decay and come apart slowly. They beautifully exchange characteristics from one to another."

I have always admired the photographic work of Frederick Sommer. Early in my photographic career I tended towards landscapes. Over time I became disenfranchised with landscapes, too often, just pretty pictures. After seeing the work of Edward Weston for the first time, my eyes were opened up to the possibilities presented by photographing “that which has been overlooked, forgotten, or looked at, but not seen.” Mr. Sommer also had this revelation after seeing Weston’s work, albeit 50 years before I had seen it.

Some of his most noted photographs are of weathered carcasses of desert animals near his home in Prescott, AZ. However, these images were sometimes not popular with the general public.

Jack Rabbit, 1939, Frederick Sommer

Coyotes, 1945, Frederick Sommer

After moving to the Arizona myself in 2005 I became aware of the brutal life cycle of the desert. On many of my walks I would spot something that had been run over by a vehicle… snakes, birds, lizards, rabbits. I was amazed that after repeatedly being crushed by heavy motor vehicles that the remains almost become part of the road. When the carcass was easily removed from the road surface I would collect them and bring them home, keeping them in the garage, much to my wife’s dismay. After collecting several specimens over several years, and recently putting our home up for sale, my wife gave me an ultimatum, “Get rid of those things, or photograph them, and then get rid of them!” And so, I did.

 Baby Bird, 2013 © Richard M. Coda

 Lizard, 2013 © Richard M. Coda 
 Rabbit, 2013 © Richard M. Coda 
 Rattlesnake, 2013 © Richard M. Coda 
 Baby Rattlesnake, 2013 © Richard M. Coda 
 Snake, 2013 © Richard M. Coda

These images will be part of an ongoing project called “Crushed”… animate and inanimate objects that have been crushed by motor vehicles. These objects would include the ubiquitous aluminum can, in all its various permutations, signs, bottles, you name it… if it can be crushed by a car, I will photograph it.