Saturday, December 22, 2007

Oh Olivo

In a world where everything (and everyone) is getting larger (and lardier), it pays to look at things in miniature - to consider the small details of the big picture. Olivo Barbieri, an Italian photographer, has seized on this idea of details: by using a tilt-shift lens (explanation imminent), he makes real-life photos look like captures of matchstick worlds.

(The Coliseum, Rome)

What a tilt-shift lens does, according to this helpful NYT article, is allow the camera to focus on a very specific plane of the scene, giving this a very high level of detail and clarity; from this point outwards, the images grows increasingly blurred. The result of this intensity of focus is the apperance of being minuscule.

(Paris hotel and casino, Las Vegas)

Barbieri says that he is interested less in the clarity but in the blur, reflecting our ambiguous, uncertain world. This is valid, of course, but perhaps facile and certainly not a capacious idea. To my mind, the value of his pictures is precisely the focus on details, making us re-examine our ideas of what things look like. If we could build a city in miniature, perhaps we would have a better idea of its overall look, proportions, character, style - not just the eyeline skyline. In the absence of London-to-scale, Barbieri helps us on our way.

Metropolis Magazine has a nice set of photos and a brief article on Barbieri.


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