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Circular Travels

Jesús de Francisco, Ikaria, Greece, 2007

Los Angeles-based art director and photographer Jesús de Francisco writes:

When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronomer. One day I would visit Saturn and walk along the immense plains of its icy rings, until I’d arrive back where I’d landed. I dreamt of the adventures I would have, the strange creatures I would encounter. Years later I can smile at the naïveté of my aspirations; yet somehow back then I’d intuited what I’ve learned since ― that our travels are mostly circular; there’s hardly ever a simple destination.

Inspired by W.G. Sebald’s books – but especially The Rings of Saturn – he came to the realization that perhaps there was a different way to look at the photographs he found himself taking during his trips around LA and around Europe.   Places, an online journal of landscape, architecture, and urbanism, recently put up a slideshow of  his photographs showing the territories where nature and contemporary civilization meet head on.

There is a strong  history over the past half century of photographers exploring what would have once been considered too ugly and banal to be worthy of attention.  de Francisco’s work sits firmly on the tradition laid down by Stephen Shore, the New Topographics photographers, and countless recent photographers who look at the modern urban and industrial world as if they were documenting archaeological sites.  What de Francisco does so well is remain subtle.  Most of his images seems rather simple at first glance, but under a slower scrutiny they reveal themselves to be a kind of poetry.  Each photograph finds a particular meter and rhyme scheme in the landscape that provides structure and coherence.  One of my favorites is Culver City, California, 2006, which has so many wonderful verticals, each leaning in slightly different directions.  I have a particular fondness for the delicate gaps between some of the verticals and the diagonal utility lines.

Jesús de Francisco, Culver City, California, 2006

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