LOOK: What's Inspiring the GQ Photo Department, Part 2

LOOK: What's Inspiring the GQ Photo Department, Part 2
Beginning this month, SPD is introducing Look, an ongoing series that will highlight the images that are inspiring, piquing, and stirring up conversation in various magazines' photography departments. Think of it as an ever-changing moodboard. First up: GQ's photography department, led by Dora Somosi.

See what they're looking at after the jump...

On New Year's Day the great postmodernist photographer Jan Groover passed away at the age of 68 in her home in Montpon-Ménestérol, France. She had moved there in 1991 from New York, where she taught at SUNY Purchase--my alma mater. Jan had moved to France by the time I arrived, but while in New York the master would still drop by the occasional class to critique students' work--an experience no young photographer could forget. It wasn't just that Jan was an intimidating talent. She was just plain intimidating. During a crit she was brash, confrontational, and brutally honest. She was quick to call bullshit on any student who dared suggest there was more to their pictures than the viewer might at first see. A typical response was often: "if it ain't in the picture...then it ain't in the picture."

Pacing the wall where pictures hung lay waiting for her assault, Jan had an ability to look through the pretentions of art school students and find something true, something honest. Her methods were often harsh but effective and it was the rare student who came away without a lasting impression and one or two mental scars. One notable pupil, Gregory Crewdson, whose best-known work creates dark fictional narratives in suburban settings, clearly listened to Jan's insistence on putting everything in the picture, producing photographs on the scale of cinematic productions--with lighting, set design, casting, etc. He'd take over entire homes, even neighborhood blocks, accounting for every minute detail.

But Jan's legacy is about more than teaching others. I have long held Jan in the highest regard as a postmodern pioneer of not only still-life photography but fine art photography in general. At a time in the seventies when photography still struggled to find its footing in the fine art world, one of Jan's photographs, a still-life, made the cover of Artforum Magazine. By photographing classical still-life subject matter such as fruit, vegetables, bottles, and kitchen utensils (and later, landscapes) Jan drew comparisons to master painters such as Cezanne and Morandi.  She applied this impressionistic, romantic painterly style to her pictures and brazenly, elegantly insisted that a photograph must be considered as serious as any fine art painting. It's easy to see her influence in today's fine art photography. As always, it's all right there, in her pictures.

  • Justin O'Neill, Photo Editor, GQ

Art Forum cover.jpg





Images courtesy of Janet Borden, Inc.

Janet Borden gallery currently has a show of Jan's work up now until March 17th, entitled "Jan Groover: Formalism is Everything"
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