The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitring, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes. Adept of the joys of watching, connoisseur of empathy, the flâneur finds the world “picturesque.”
- —Susan Sontag, On Photography
Over the last few months I’ve become aware of Cory Scholes’s work through the Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery and particularly its Facebook page. The photographs that he posts to the group are almost always obviously his without needing to read the caption, such is his distinctive style and personal ‘quality control’. He seems to have created quite a following locally, so much so that his influence is beginning to be seen in other people’s work within the group.
I’ve chatted with Cory previously about the desire for an artist, photographic or otherwise, to cultivate a look or style of their own; it’s what he calls a ‘unique visual signature’. Playing devil’s advocate, I suggested that the best photographers should be able to turn their hand to anything from holiday snaps of their kids to fine art. Cory stood his ground:
When I was studying, we obviously had to try our hand at various styles/techniques, which I think is important, as is a good understanding of the workings of a camera and the effects settings etc can have on the final image (there are lots who don’t get this aspect, but I think it’s essential). Speaking purely from a personal perspective, I feel my own show would maybe be diluted if I tried to have lots of different styles in there, I feel it has to have a distinct ‘whole’ as well as strong individual images. Having said that, it contains work that could be classed as portraiture, still life, architecture, street…..but I would say it all looks like ‘me’ if that makes sense.
Between us we came up with very few examples of artists who exhibited varied work. Their subject matter changed, but that signature style remained – you can tell a Parr or a McCullin or a Gursky without reading the caption, so well developed is their personal style. People like Philip-Lorca diCorcia may shoot travel photography to fund his art, but any influence from it is kept a long way from the gallery walls or the monograph.
Cory’s show at the Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery features work from the last 12 months (other than a couple from his previous exhibition in 1997 (does that make it a ‘retrospective’?)) and was shot in Paris, Valencia and mostly Leicester. These Parisian accents are enough to make the whole set feel continental and even the view of Leicester’s inner ring-road is mistaken for the Rue de la Somethingorother when given Cory’s treatment. Throughout, the rigorous adherence to his personal aesthetic remains.
There are a lot of photographs here, allowing us to immerse ourselves into the work but requiring time to fully appreciate. A great deal of thought has been put into their presentation and sequencing and Cory admits there ‘a couple of crowd-pleasers’ that he has strategically placed through the set. These more playful images and some colour work allow us to take a breath and relax from the occasionally oppressive contrast and abstract.
The show is characterised by strong black and white contrasts, grain and blur, paired with unusual angles and cropping that breaks all sorts of compositional ‘rules’. It brings to mind Daido Moriyama, particularly his Farewell Photography set or a monochrome Uta Barth. Many images, particularly the colour photographs, are reminiscent of Saul Leiter‘s work although Cory tells me that he was a latecomer to Leiter and had developed his style independently.
The work, as with much contemporary art is less about technically accurate recreations of a scene and instead becomes the about the creativity and imagination of the artist and their ability to show us their interpretation of the scene. The viewer questions how the subject came to be in front of his lens and in many cases, why. These blurred, abstract, fragmentary views of the world appear to substantiate Cory’s photo-flâneur method:
In terms of how I work, to me it’s a very instinctive thing, I never have a set idea of what I’m going to take, I simply grab my camera and walk, and let the world reveal itself to me as it wants to, and when it does, I’m there to hopefully capture some of that hidden magic, and then subsequently it’s up to the image to hopefully connect and speak to the viewer.
Cory’s rigour (it’s that word again) and dedication to his aesthetic sets him apart from other local photographers. This exhibition allows him to present his world view on what feels a large and definitive scale. If you don’t ‘get it’ after seeing this set then you never will.
we think of photographs as fact, but they can also be fiction, metaphors or poetry
– Gerry Badger
All images remain copyright of Cory Scholes and were used with permission.
Cory’s blog post on the Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery site – http://lppg.wordpress.com/blogger-archive/cory-scholes-guest-blog/
Cory D Scholes website – http://corydscholes-photographicart.co.uk/