Sunday, January 20, 2008

Photojournalism Defined by its Space

Published in The Expat Newspaper, 20 January 2008

Documenting the human condition is the mainstay of the photojournalist’s craft, especially in the realms of the highly lauded photographic genre of black and white photography. And American photographer, Charles Harbutt, in his current exhibition at the Silverlens Gallery succeeds admirably in showing us his view of life on the streets. With his 1982 Yucatan photograph, “Monday Morning” being a captivating portrayal of the start of the working week.

But Harbutt’s work is more than just people and their predilections. He has a fine sense of the abstract qualities of space within the picture frame, which he uses to good effect. As in the relationship between the two buildings depicted in “Rue Schoelcher” that whilst being ages apart are connected by his spatial rendering of the sky. And the tree and wall in “Hacienda Chichen” where his use of light and dark spaces creates an abstract of haiku proportions.

When Harbutt combines these spatial design skills with his observation of people, then the magic of his photography comes to the fore. In works like “Heart of Dallas”, “Man on Escalator” and “Scrivener” there is an intriguing disconnect between the people and their environment. The people are almost ant like in Harbutt’s abstracted cityscapes and blissfully unaware of their insignificance whilst being an anonymous centre of attention. How many of us have been too involved with the details of our daily life to notice our fifteen minutes?

This sense of irony also informs the poster piece for the exhibition, “Chrysler Building” and the darkly comedic “Running Man”. The nonchalant indifference of the man in the glass and concrete box to one of New York’s best known landmarks in the former and the quite desperation of escape from the oppressive industrial cityscape of Liverpool in the latter.

In the black and white photographic genre Harbutt’s stylized abstractions complement his photojournalism enhancing the image’s story with a lyrical simplicity. And for their first exhibition for 2008, Silverlens have set themselves a high bench mark for the rest of the year. For those interested in art in general and photography in particular, Charles Harbutt’s exhibition is a must see.

The exhibition continues at the Silverlens Gallery, 2320 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati City until the 9th of February. More information and a sneak preview of the work can be seen online at

1 comment:

Pixel-Pixie said...

Hi Henry,

I'm just "checking in" as it's been a long time....I'm now settled in Kenya and enjoying being back (despite the current political mess here). I've started a new photo-journal about my life in the bush which I call my Wilderness Diary. Dezine Design is still going and about to undergo a re-vamp and an expansion: I have three new artists/photographers who are waiting to join. I'm also working on a "proper job" out here in Kenya, so my hands are full at the moment. Oh yes, I got married too!

How are you doing? How was your exhibition in Canberra - I feel like I've been away for months (well, I have actually). I haven't seen you over on the OVACF since I've been back in touch over there. I miss your humour and candid remarks! Anyway, I hope all is well and I'm looking forward to browsing through your blog and seeing your new creations.

Take care and "see you" over here from time to time...