Majestic landscapes. Beautiful faces. Inspiring events. These are all subjects worthy of a photographer’s attention.
But there’s something compelling about an artist turning the camera to something less spectacular.
Greg Conniff has a knack for doing exactly this. For more than three decades, the Madison photographer has captured what many of us would overlook—or even consider ugly. He photographs overgrown gardens, neglected farmland, backyards, parking lots, rundown streets and more, all with an eye for revealing their unique detail.
“I like being swept away by an unplanned, unmanaged, sometimes stunning beauty that can reorder easy ideas about the nature of a place,” the artist says in a statement for –30– Photographs by Greg Conniff, an exhibition running through December 23 at the James Watrous Gallery.
Selections from Conniff’s extensive body of work grace the walls, mostly black and white photographs presented in a mix of frames, without labels, a treatment that creates an unpretentious atmosphere. It’s the right fit for the subject matter, particularly thanks to the artist’s straightforward approach. He presents what he sees, neither recoiling from blight nor romanticizing it. By conveying everyday scenes this way, the viewer is able to discover beauty in them.
You’ll see a mess of tree branches, scruffy leaves and grass and notice the rhythm of the chaos. The wild lushness of an untended garden. Even a muddy industrial yard offers a quiet elegance when giant metal structures are silhouetted against a foggy sky.
It’s in these most unmanaged moments—where weeds pop up through cracks in the sidewalk or a flower blooms against a dilapidated house—that Conniff shines and offers viewers the world anew.
–30– Photographs by Greg Conniff is on display through December 23 at the James Watrous Gallery. For more information, visit wisconsinacademy.org.
And for more of Conniff’s work, visit his “Weeds” tumblr at gconniff.tumblr.com.