Jim Kazanjian's newest image brings a photographic approach to the act of sampling.
What makes a photograph special? For early image theorist, Roland Barthes, it's a two part answer: studium, the quality in a photograph that displays the "given cultural meanings that we understand at once," provides the sort of contextual understanding that allows us to read into the image itself. Punctum, on the other hand, is "that which pierces the viewer"; a conscious or subconscious aspect that "stings" the heart. For Barthes, when a photograph has studium and punctum, when it resounds on both intellectual and emotional levels, it's elevated to the vaulted status of a work of art.
When it comes to the work of Armenian photographer Jim Kazanjian, this sort of analysis is all the more difficult, considering that none of his photographs come from singular, decisive moments. Instead, they come from many. Like many a DJ and producer before him, Kazanjian takes a "sampling" approach to his photography, and with one look at his newest work, Untitled [Grotto], viewable above, it's evident that we're dealing with a different kind of photographer, and a different kind of photography.
"My images are digitally manipulated composites built from photographs I find online. The technique I use could be considered 'hyper-collage'. I cobble together pieces from photos I find interesting and feed them into Photoshop. Through a palimpsest-like layering process of adding and subtracting, I gradually blend the various parts together. I am basically manipulating and assembling a disparate array of multiple photographic elements (sometimes more than 50) to produce a single homogenized image. I do not use a camera at any stage in the process."
Below, check out all the images Kazanjian composited into Untitled [Grotto] (selections in green):
While we're no Barthes-ian scholars ourselves, we'd have to say that the undeniable feeling you get from Untitled [Grotto] comes from hybridized studium and punctum qualities: our contextual understanding functions on the subconscious level. Image theorist or otherwise, Kazanjian's work is a new kind of collage, Franken-photographs for the digital age. One thing's for sure: we sure can't get enough of his surreal, digitally-manipulated architectures.
Images courtesy of the artist. For more, check out Jim Kazanjian's website.