Roger Hicks considers… ‘Oblique Strategies’, 2018, by Edmond Terakopian
Inspiration has countless roots, just like a tree, where each root divides into smaller roots, then rootlets, then hair-fine capillaries. Any of those capillaries – visual, verbal, imaginary – can give rise to a picture. Here we are presented with a whole set of capillaries in the form of ‘Oblique Strategies’, a set of cards with inspirational notes/challenges written by Brian Eno in 1975; Google them.
An exhibition earlier this year was also called Oblique Strategies and was organised by the Ealing branch of London Independent Photographers (www. ealinglondonphotography.co.uk); Terakopian’s was the lead picture. You should be able to read at least some of the slogans in the picture, and that’s one of the first things to notice: how very artfully the cards are arranged, so that even if we can’t read the words in full, we can either work out the motto (‘...phasize differences’) or ask an even broader question (‘Do we need...’) This alone is a valuable lesson: details matter.
Before that, though, the first thing I noticed was the exquisite tonality: a masterful use of everything from the brightest possible whites to the darkest possible blacks, yet still with no distractingly blown highlights or blocked shadows. Or maybe there was another first thing, a sort of holy trinity of impact: the Plaubel Makina itself with its big, glittering 100/2.9 Anticomar lens. The lens is more impressive to look at than to use (I’ve had a couple) but the whole camera is the epitome of top-flight gadgetry – beautifully engraved and mechanically seductive.
Then there’s the box, superbly incorporated in the composition. The more I look at this picture, the more I admire it: there’s nothing you can really fault. I suppose you could criticise the way the end of the word ‘strategies’ goes slightly out of focus, but to me, this is a uniquely photographic ‘fault’: something that is inherent in the process, and re-emphasises that above all we are talking about photography. And the jumbled reflections in the lens? To me, that’s what makes it glitter; and because in real life glitter often relies on movement, it’s very hard to capture in a still photograph.
You might care to go to Terakopian’s website, www.terakopian.com, where you’ll see plenty of other equally excellent pictures, and to www.londonphotography. org.uk – the umbrella organisation to which the Ealing club belongs.