Faces and Places

Michael Joseph's new gallery merges rock 'n' roll icons

As a photographer for hire, Joseph shoots portraits and such, but when he's true to his artistic calling, the result is almost always a building or a fragment of a building that, by virtue of the absence of people, draws on negative space for its impact. After close scrutiny of Downtown Cab, a street-level shot in Manhattan that includes taxis and other vehicles, I could only speculate that a nebulous figure on a curb was actually a human being, which is just as the artist intended.

Joseph remembers traveling to New York from rural Connecticut as a young man and being mesmerized by the buildings. That fascination continues to this day and continues to yield memorable images. His Brooklyn Bridge crops the famous landmark down to an excerpt of its arches and calls attention to the cables, which here look almost like lengths of barbed wire.

A miniature triptych in Joseph's office combines Downtown Cab, Bridge and Hoops (which pushes the Brooklyn Bridge into the background),and Flat Iron to reinvigorate our perception of these familiar New York street scenes. Sometimes, the photographer gets so caught up in the spatial qualities of architecture that he ends up with images more abstract than pictorial. Spiral formations, in particular, seem to bring out the abstractionist in him.

One work that has brought Joseph significant attention is a shot that initially caught his eye because of its geometric juxtapositions but has since taken on a heightened emotional charge. The photo looks up at the World Trade Center towers from a distance of many blocks and partially fills the empty space between them with a simple cross atop a church. As you can imagine, after 9/11, the image was much in demand as a solemn signifier of what is no longer there.

Joseph still has a good distance to cover before his gallery lives up to his promise. But he's fully aware that his is a space in transition, and he's full of ideas about how to achieve his goals for it. And as said recently, if his gallery doesn't make it, the real tragedy will not be his own personal failure but the failure of the Fort Lauderdale area to sustain yet another worthwhile gallery. To which I can only add, "Amen."

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