I have always been curious about the nature of artistic inspiration. How did Rembrandt figure out the way to represent light to create his masterpieces? Why did Picasso become a cubist? What led Jackson Pollock to drip paint trails on a canvas? How did Paul Strand veer from his mentors to represent society and culture with simple, almost architectural photographs?
Picasso became my inspiration for a series of photographs that redefine time and overcome the limitations of a camera. Just as Picasso showed his subjects from several viewpoints simultaneously—staying within two dimensions—I decided to experiment with the same approach, using Layers in Photoshop to generate my reality.
The Cubism Revisited series has two parts. The first was my effort to represent the disparate views that one has of another individual when intimately close.
- When your face is up against another person’s face and one eye is closed, you have a monocular view.
- When the other eye is closed instead, there is a different monocular view.
- And when both eyes are open, you have a binocular view.
I found I could layer the three or more view angles and achieve what I had seen with my own eyes—a Cubist view. As a further homage to Picasso’s style, I have added colored geometric forms to some of the composites.
Carrying the concept further, the second set of layered photos captures two or more people closely related genetically—mother and daughter; father and son; grandmother, mother, daughter. In this set I was hoping somehow to represent the genetic ties, even though no one ever looks exactly like just one parent—or one grandparent. Super-imposing faces while trying to maintain the integrity of each individual was challenging. The process of creation was both demanding and gratifying as I merged angles of faces to create surreal combinations.
Since I started to do photography, I have always wanted to “beat” the camera’s single- point-in-time function. I have shaken the camera, used long exposures and occasionally turned to video to tell a story. The cubist layering approach of this series defies the concept of time, creates a monocular-binocular effect and collapses years between each generation.
Scientists tell us that we actually see everything upside down, but our brain re-arranges the facts to convince us that we see right side up. Photographic cubism may represent another accurate way of interpreting what we see. As Picasso said: “We all know that art is not the truth, art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.”
Leah Abrahams is a fine-arts photographer living in the Boston area. Abrahams’ photographic interests, reinforced by her travels, are wide and range from abstract to landscape to people. Her goal is to impact viewers and effect a change in the way they see and interpret the world—“just as I began to see anew when I first picked up a camera.”
Abrahams had a one-woman show (“Russian Faces and Places”), which traveled to Los Angeles, CA, Chicago, IL, Madison, WI, Milwaukee, WI and Green Bay, WI. Her most recent show, “From Mao to Now: China in 1979 and 2012” showcased her photography in a two-person, multi-media show.
A founding member of the Main Street Artworks Studio and Gallery in Wisconsin, Leah has won awards from the Lucie Foundation International Photography Competition, the Color Awards Competition as well as from Women in Photography International. Her work is in the collection of the Neville Public Museum in Green Bay, WI, private collectors and businesses.
A graduate of Northwestern University (BA) and the University of Wisconsin (MA), Abrahams, a professional personal historian, has attended photography workshops taught by Joel Meyerowitz, Nick Merrick, Eileen Rafferty and Elizabeth Stone and Meg Birnbaum for the Griffin Photography Museum. She is a member of UForge Gallery in Jamaica Plain.
Contact Leah Abrahams