23/Jan/2006 – Luke Swank   4 comments

Luke Swank

Modernist Photographer

Photography of the actual exhibit was not permitted, but here are few I took where I was allowed.


I made a collage using Picasa and some pictures from our trip to the CMOA.

Carnegie Institute Lydia at Lunch

Lydia and I had lunch before we took in the lecture Whose Truth Is It? An Examination of Photography and Creative Nonfiction.

Trees and Winter Sky

Trees against a winter sky. Taken outside the Carnegie Institute, home of the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Art.

On Saturday, Lydia and I went to the Luke Swank: Modernist Photographer exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Art. We picked this day because, in addition to the exhibit itself, Howard Bossen, curator of the exhibit and professor of Journalism, Michigan State University, East Lansing, was going to give a presentation on Whose Truth Is It? An Examination of Photography and Creative Nonfiction. While Professor Bossen discussed the notions of fact and truth in photography, Lee Gutkind, founder and editor of the Creative Nonfiction journal, also spoke on these concepts in writing creative nonfiction.

This description probably makes the lecture sound a little stuffy, but it was in fact very interesting. For example, even though photography has been described as simply the mechanical recording of a scene (the reason why it was not considered art for the longest time,) we still need to ask ourselves, “Why am I being shown this and not something else? Is the image serving a particular agenda?” (Of course, there is also the capability to mechanically or digitally manipulate images after they have been taken, which wasn’t discussed.)

In taking a photograph, the photographer makes a choice. I think that Susan Sontag expressed it well in Regarding the Pain of Others.

“The photographic image…cannot be simply a transparency of something that happened. It is always the image that someone chose; to photograph is to frame, and to frame is to exclude.”

“To frame is to exclude.” That thought, along with the examples that Professor Bossen showed the audience, moved me to look at photographs and photography differently.

After the presentations, the speakers opened a discussion with the audience. At my urging, however, Lydia and I ducked out to catch the guided tour of the exhibit. A sweet old lady, whose name escapes me, took Lydia and I���just the two of us, at first���into the gallery. She explained, using example photos, some of the background of Luke Swank and his work.

We learned some interesting things about the man as well as his photographs. A few details stuck with me. I learned that Luke Swank had no formal training in photography, but he observed the work of others and learned from those. Also, he was in his late thirties when he took up photography. Swank’s work also reflected his interest in geometry, light and shadows. He had written that you had to peer at his photographs to discern the details hidden in the shadows. All of this appealed to me.

After the tour, with our parking meter expired, we decided to head back home. We hope to visit again and spend more time with the exhibit. It runs through February 5.


Posted Monday, January 23, 2006 by Grant in Random

4 responses to “23/Jan/2006 – Luke Swank

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  1. Beautiful photos and a very interesting post. I enjoyed it. 😀 Thank you!

  2. Awesome post. I really enjoy hearing about your trips. I really like Lydia’s shirt too, it’s very artsy. As always, she has a beautiful smile.

  3. @ Joy: Thank you very much. I am glad you enjoyed it.

    @ Melissa: Thanks. I also think Lydia has a beautiful smile.

    — Grant

  4. I liked the collage tool in PICASA!!

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