Magic & Logic: Robert Langham III
“A statement attributed to Ansel Adams is: ‘You don’t take a photograph, you make it’. Robert Langham has embraced that concept and taken his art one step further.” -Geoffrey Koslov, New Visions-Part 1: Still Life Photography, May 22, 2018
Robert Langham’s kinetic still life, logic defying, photographs are made with a magician’s slight-of-hand and the skill of a master-of-the-darkroom. Spending time with Robert Langham’s not-so-still life photographs, you will be surprised to discover that they are made using traditional film, low tech hands on tricks and dark room processes without the use of digital media or computer editing. Langham defines his kinetic still lifes as images of an event more than an arrangement. His active still life images capture a carefully orchestrated, fleeting, stop-action moment that becomes visible only when multiple exposures reveal what the film has recorded. The subjects of this labor intensive, analog process also bring together unrelated objects that also will keep you guessing. And as if by sleight of hand, the odd collection of objects burns, melts, blooms, twists, tilts, sways and balances precariously before the camera. Unlike digital photographs, the images remain a mystery until the film is developed. Langham admits, “The subjects come from my yard, the storeroom, the garbage, street, flowerbeds and lawns of my neighbors, the street, and the trash…the local ecosystem. In the studio, the objects are arranged and are then photographed on a tiny board stage.”
Langham has captured the awe and wonder of Southwestern landscapes on film since the pre-digital days of 1970s developing the analogue skills he learned as Ansel Adams’ assistant, in graduate school, and eventually sharing his expertise as an instructor at Tyler Junior College and Sam Houston State University. In the process, Langham has become a highly-regarded fine art photographer as well as a successful commercial photographer. In addition to capturing grand vistas and ready-made splendor on film, Langham turned to the enclosed environment of the studio seeking to control (almost) everything in the image: the light, the setting, the arrangement and the action. He starts the still life process, “just guessing”, as he is fond of saying. The photographs in this exhibition prove that Langham’s guesses have evolved into stunning, still life photographs of fleeting moments of surrealistic fantasy. Inspired by dreams and personal experience as well as a desire to create a unique style of fine art, still-life photography of “often overlooked” ordinary objects, this die hard analog photographer has also issued a challenge to the relentless, visual noise of digital imagery. With each frame of pirouetting feathers, scissors, or puzzle pieces, Langham reminds us that skill, craft and time tested processes are still the primary ingredients required for casting a spell of logic-defying visual magic.