Nuanced Variations in Black-and-White Photography
By August Smith, WTP Feature Writer
When you first visit Gerasimos Platanas’s site, you’re greeted by a single, emblematic photograph: a silhouette of a human figure centered in a vortex of blurred white light. It’s an image full of kinetic energy and potentiality; the figure is indistinct, and the perimeter only seems to suggest legible shapes and patterns. The stark and hard-edged mood confronts the onlooker, shorn of context, as if the picture was taken someplace and no place at all. What better way to fall into the dark world generated by Gerasimos Platanas’s artistic oeuvre.
Platanas is a photographer and artist born in Corfu, Greece. His photography has been featured in various publications, including Eyemazing Susan, Sarmad Magazine, GUP, and Adore Noir Magazine. He works primarily with digital photography and Polaroid, a juxtaposition of mediums that underscores his clear interest in contrast and context. Perhaps most striking, however, are the marked variations in theme and style he is able to achieve while working exclusively in black and white.
Two of his series, Solaris and Winter Notes, focus on similar techniques and subjects, though the presence of a human element is more noticeably pronounced in Winter Notes, especially as to the poignantly gestural of hands. In “Winter Notes IV” an elongated human shadow casts forward from the photographer’s position, shading some dimly illuminated shrubbery:
Throughout this series some of the shots border on moments of domesticity, but when paralleled alongside the experimental work, become strange in themselves. This feeling of placelessness, of something from a dream, can be felt as well in Solaris, though here you can find some of Platanas’s clearest and most vivid works. The subjects of these photographs are cleanly contrasted against stark, deeply-dark backgrounds punctuated by textures and light, as if suspended in a dimension of pure negative space. Nature is a recurring subject in Platanas’s work, as a study of shapes and their relationships to all the outside space around them, and this series focuses on that interplay. Certain elements can seem to glow with an otherworldly light, as in “Solarice VI”:
Tears and Saints seems a departure from the natural world as Platanas’s catalyst, with an exploration of Christian iconography and decay as his subject. The photographs feature traditional and famous depictions of various Christian figures—the Holy Family, John the Baptist—but decayed, warped, and manipulated nearly beyond recognition. Though here again is that signature darkness, this time one encroaching on icons worn away by time or deliberate defacement, as in “Tears and Saints III”:
The most radical departure in style perhaps, can be found in Visions & Portraits. All the images in this series stick to that rigid black-and-white palette, furthering their refusal to edify or invite. And indeed, you will find here not only that signature darkness but also crisp imagery, especially in some exquisite “portraits” of the reflected in broken mirrors or glass:
These works can especially focus on texture and its inherent emotional qualities, the way a visual pattern can intrigue, repulse, stimulate. But interestingly, in this series, you will find a shift in focus from that sharp clarity to a greater ambiguity—with a greater play on shadows and silhouettes, and most uncharacteristically perhaps, the blurring of an image, as in “XV”:
Platanas here achieves a different kind of tension: the subject itself is not so much seen clearly as merely implied, something grand and phantasmic captured mid-blink. Some of these images are so obscured, they venture entirely into the abstract, as in “Visions & Portraits II.”
Platanas lets his work speak for itself. His website, not unlike his photographs, never offers up too much information. Like lots of good art, it only suggests deeper mysteries, motioning towards a place of newness and difference, a whole universe suspended in blackness just waiting to be explored.
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