“Although I love and come from photography it is not all that I think about.”
For the Los Angeles based photographic artist Farrah Karapetian the usual photographic concerns of camera settings are a thing of the past as she grapples with the sculptural arrangements she constructs in her studio. From drum kits to reconstructions of riot police configurations Karapetian’s cameraless photograms explore the relationship between photographic representation and reality.
As she told ArtForum’s Megan Heuer “I admire strong documentary photography, but I also want to critique it: Does it really communicate what it was like to be under fire or in a hurricane? I began to try to re-create these scenarios, but without the conventional attitude towards the photograph’s role in history—that it is documentary, accurate, or evidence-oriented.”
It's a journey that began over a decade ago after graduating with a BA from Yale University. The 24 year-old Karapetian visited Kosovo to photograph a story her friend was writing for New York’s Metropolis Magazine. It was whilst printing these photographs Karapetian made her first photogram.
As she explained to Ken Weingart Art & Photography Blog “I made my first photogram by mistake after my one and only editorial assignment: a trip to Kosovo to photograph the politics of architecture. I returned to New York from that trip and, printing the images of burned villages, grew frustrated with the difference between the two sites of exposure and slammed a fan down on the enlarging table, mistakenly tripping the enlarger’s light. When something comes between the photosensitive paper and a light, its silhouette is burned into the paper: this happened, then, by mistake, at that time, and recorded of course my current state of mind as much as it recorded the silhouette of the fan on the paper. I liked that conflation of the time and space of exposure, and decided that that’s how I would work from then on, so I stopped using cameras.”
With works that combine both the abstract and the figurative Karapetian employs sculptural and performative means to achieve imagery that refigures the medium of photography.
About which she says “I’ve long been attracted to the marks people make on architecture to express their concerns, in part because the marks I make through photogramming express mine. I now use sculpturally or digitally constructed elements to achieve pictorial and architectural effects that go beyond what found objects or light alone can do. My photograms are planned and constructed up until the moment of exposure, at which point chance intervenes. The resulting image is more of a provocative metaphor than a sober document.”
Karapetian’s current exhibition Relief is on show at Los Angeles Von Lintel Gallery until the 20th of February.