Critical Analysis: Jan Boles, Panoramas, January 2002
Lorinda Knight Gallery, 523 W Sprague, Spokane, WA
Jan Boles is a photographer from Southwest Idaho. His work is presented in a potentially interesting format of one frame laced over another to create a long, movie-like landscape. Most of his work was photographed within the Pacific Northwest region, reaching as far east as Montana. I feel that the initial idea was interesting; however, I find the formal aspects of his work predictable and his photographic skills only average.
The main difficulty I find within the presentation of his work are within the borders of each photographic frame: they appear to be drawn on, in some cases, with a Sharpie marker. There was definitely some kind of ink-bleed on the photographs that stole my eye from what may have been excellent composition to the jagged edge of the photographic frame.
I also noticed that the placement of each photographic frame was, oftentimes, very regular. Each frame overlapped the next in the same direction as the one before. I found this format, for most of his work, to take away from the viewer the actual image, which was what I supposed to be the whole idea behind making the photographs. There were certain exceptions to this criticism: there were a couple panoramas of very linear images, and one of these images was set up in a slight arc-like curve. This curve was very subtle, and I felt it worked well with the context of a linear image.
There was also an almost minimalist piece called, “First Snow,” that I felt was laid out very nicely as well… coincidentally, also a linear setup. My only complaint is within the way the landscapes had been presented: formal photography of formal subject with a predictable layout. To rectify the presentation, I feel he should have taken a more haphazard approach to the layout of each piece, then mat each piece to mimic the layout. This would require a more painstaking and costly process, but would have made the work far more interesting overall.
As far as the photography itself, there were very few pieces that even piqued my interest in subject matter. His value range never hit deep black, though it may have hit ultra white a couple of times, keeping his range from a mediocre 3-9+. The scale of each photographic frame led me to believe he simply cut up his contact sheets and placed them together. There didn’t seem to be a major interest in the actual craft of photography.
I will note, however, that his composition was superb within a formal construct. But with that, I noticed it was almost always at the 5/8 mark that he made his focal point which made me feel right at home with predictable composition. This probably wouldn’t have bothered me so much – in fact, I probably would have enjoyed it much more – had the rest of his formal issues not been so predictable in the first place.
I feel that Mr. Boles’ work would have been far more successful had he pushed his concepts even just a little further. Photography, in general, is often so representational that the element of surprise is necessary to create interesting ideas and provoke the viewer to ponder and browse the work on a deeper level.