Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Photographic Typologies: Bill Sullivan

Bill Sullivan's More Turns is an interesting, highly controlled photographic study of people passing through subway turnstiles. Conceptually similar to Walker Evans' methodology for his Subway Portraits series, Sullivan's typological approach democratizes his subjects by capturing all of them in the same action and from the same distance. In the writing that accompanies his work, Sullivan states:

I was tired of the conventions in which most photographs of people are taken. And I was tired of the results that often seem to pass for poetry. I needed something to be objective : I wanted the context to be clearly established . I wanted play a role in the situation, but I wanted the situation to take a photograph of itself for me . I would design the scenarios in which this could happen, and then the situation could be responsible for creating the picture. The poetry would be as much in the design of that scenario as from any photograph that might come from it. These situations would include me but I would disappear as any kind of typical photographer. I would simply play a role in the scenario. I would become someone waiting for an elevator, a man reading the New Yorker waiting for a friend to pass through the turnstile, or simply another tourist watching someone having his or her portrait done. The situations were mapped out, tests were made, and special clothing was worn. I became a spy for the obvious.

I developed a situation so that various subjects could be defined by the constraints of exactly the same mechanical apparatus. The scenario consisted of someone passing through a subway turnstile. At the moment that the subjects passed through the turnstile, unknown to them, I took their picture stationed at a distance of eleven feet. I stood there turning pages of a magazine observing subjects out of the corner of my eye, waiting for only the moment when they pushed the turnstile bar to release the shutter.

All photographs from the series More Turns

All Images © Bill Sullivan