Research notes – Mona Kuhn

Mona Kuhn (b. 1969) is a Brazilian / American photographer.

The following notes are from pictures of Mona Kuhn’s book “Evidence”, appearing in an article by Doug Stockdale that can be found here, as well as other pictures of Kuhn found online.

Two interesting aspects of Kuhn’s work in “Evidence” is the use in some pictures of glass and its reflective / translucent properties to add elements to the frame (eg her reflection, the sky, trees) and to diffuse her subjects by mixing them with the reflections, in a process that creates new images that are neither faithful reproductions nor entirely abstract, but stay in between.

The other element that is interesting, and this ties with exercise 2.6, is the use of wide apertures / narrow dept of field in the pictures, sometimes in a counterintuitive way, eg with the main subject being completely out of focus while some seemingly irrelevant object like wild flowers appearing sharp in the foreground. To add to the effect, Khun skilfully composes the pictures to ensure that we are under no doubt as to who are her subjects, placing the sharp flowers or the leaves on the edge of the frame, as if they were there just to provide a context to the subjects, in a confusing way.

Kuhn also creates “layers of softness” by placing the subjects at increasing distances from the focal plane (see here, for example). This is done in a way that provides sufficient separation to allow the viewer to distinguish each shape, in spite of the softness, thus providing a clear path for the eyes to go deeper into the frame by creating a sense of story. This is a remarkable achievement given that the subjects are each presented on their own and, far from interacting with each other, seem to be lost in their own minds.

The use of intense natural light on many of the photographs, not only delineates the bodies of her subject but also, and perhaps as a conscious byproduct, generates large blown-out areas without any details, in some cases approaching 50% of the picture’s area (as in here). It is generally not pleasant to watch, but it does add to the idea that the photographer is more interested in showing her subjects in the best possible way and background considerations come second, which is not necessarily a risky approach given than in many cases the subject themselves are an integral part of the background.

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