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Decaying dresses make photographer's landscapes personal

By dpreview staff on Sep 22, 2013 at 18:21 GMT

Photographer Jean Albus is known for literally dressing up the landscapes she captures near her south central Montana home. She leaves dresses to weather in her harsh surroundings before photographing them, sometimes for as long as four years. Her final images sometimes feature a dress as she's found it, sunken into the elements. She also often superimposes the worn dress over another image of the landscape, floating the decaying dress within "Big Sky Country."

Ascention by Jean Albus.

"It's one thing to take a picture of the landscape ... but to make it personal and to produce an emotional connection in the viewer, it was important to me to inject something into the photograph of me. And the dress became that," Albus describes her work in a new video explaining her process.

Dead of Winter by Jean Albus.

She also hopes to invoke emotion through the weathering process:

"It's amazing to watch how the elements affect them so that it brings to mind thoughts about aging, and thoughts about memory and transformation, transition, change," she says. The video in support of an upcoming exhibition of her work in Seattle, Washington shows Albus in action:

Jean Albus - Ineffable

You can learn more about Albus on her website.

Comments

Total comments: 107
pixe lgeek
By pixe lgeek (6 months ago)

I found the majority of her work to be derivative, self absorbed, yawn inducing, obvious and borderline amateurish. If I hadn't read her bio, I would have imagined it being the work of a savvy but only moderately talented college freshman. It appears that she, like so many "artists" these days think, just because they can snap a picture or manipulate an image on a computer, it must be "ART". Great photography is about light and the bulk of her work seems to be totally unaware of this, resulting in flat and ultimately boring work. Add to that uninspired composition and I found very little to hold the eye. I was even less impressed after watching her explanation, her technique and methodology. I think there's potential, but I fear that her work has reached it's peak. Perhaps if she studied the work of some truly great photographers she could see what makes a great photograph, but she seems to be so enamored with her own work that I doubt there is an impetus for improvement.

Comment edited 43 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Jon Ragnarsson
By Jon Ragnarsson (7 months ago)

That is nice and all... but camera reviews?

0 upvotes
b craw
By b craw (7 months ago)

As Rob Bernhard acutely pointed out, this site is titled digital Photography Review, not Digital Camera Review. I, as do others, appreciate both the gear reviews as well as exploration of the concepts and approaches employed by photographers. And it is a bit naive to think that the resources used on these types of articles come at the expense of more camera reviews - simply not the case.

7 upvotes
Alec
By Alec (7 months ago)

We got the landscapes with empty dresses. Means some other site got the nudes!!

4 upvotes
BartyLobethal
By BartyLobethal (7 months ago)

Yeah, but they are decaying nudes, so we got the better deal.

4 upvotes
madeinlisboa
By madeinlisboa (7 months ago)

I'm gonna photograph cat poop with different shapes and textures in different environments and perspectives and get famous. The sky is the limit!

0 upvotes
b craw
By b craw (7 months ago)

Please. Feel free to criticize this work but such an analogy is pretty ridiculous. Maybe it would benefit your photography to look past the literalness of the subject matter to consider the ideas behind it. How does your cat poop example compare in any substantive way to this artists work?

0 upvotes
BartyLobethal
By BartyLobethal (7 months ago)

Any subject matter can be photographed in interesting ways, and if you were an adventurous photographer you probably could make a name for yourself with your "cat poop" images. But the way you have written your response indicates that you are a 'conventional' thinker who will probably only ever produce 'conventional' images. Safe, boring and like the overwhelming majority of us, destined for obscurity.

1 upvote
citizenlouie
By citizenlouie (7 months ago)

(agrees with BartyLobethal with some ambivalent and conflicting feeling)

Well, yeah, I suppose most of us will be destined for obscurity.... And I do agree with your argument. Art is a creative field, and people like madeinlisboa will never get a work like this. And yes, a cat poop can be art and if he has some talent to execute it nicely. It's not the subject that makes the art, but the vision behind it. A lot of people don't seem to understand this. Not all subjects are tangible things. Some are "conceptual." I am not the artist of this work, so I will refrain from misinterpret it, but I'm going to say, this photo features a dress, but the subject is not about the dress, but the story behind the dress. She said it's personal to her, so it's a visual analogy to her own journey. Dress is what you see, so that's why most people are mistaking the physical thing itself as the subject.

Now I am back to dedicate my life working at conventional art. Obscurity here I come...

1 upvote
obscura64
By obscura64 (7 months ago)

Whenever people ask me advice about buying a camera I always recommend this site first. It has great reviews on the equipment to make great images. However in reading the posts here I have to say that it has a lot of very narrow minded people. With some I might even go so far as to say "visually illiterate". I'm not saying that you have to like this artists work but dismissiveness is not critical thinking.
When I look at the work I see much that is visually compelling but better yet I see work that makes me think and want to go deeper into the images. Unfortunately most of what you will find here or most of the web is a discussion of megapixels.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
9 upvotes
jkoch2
By jkoch2 (7 months ago)

Camera-fans include an unusual quotient of "idiot savants" obsessed with very narrow things, who to ape if confronted with different subjects, or anything alive or ambiguous like art.

0 upvotes
b craw
By b craw (7 months ago)

She also has an extensive photostream on Flickr.

I find myself making a sort of mental separation between the earthen work (dresses left in landscape) and the work with the dress occupying space within the the frame of larger landscapes - like postcards.

The visceral qualities of the former interest me most; the play between distinct boundaries and indistinct ones. The textures as contrast and/or sameness. It draws reference from many familiar points, photographically, but still feels experiential, and I'm not locked in a mindset of comparisons.

The latter mentioned body of work seems most interesting to me when the dress(es) become more about an abstract volume in play with more distant scenery. The shallow registration of space in relation to a deeper abstract expanse. Interestingly, these, despite the dress becoming less recognizable, are still visceral in some way - a sort of formal and conceptual counterpoint to the earth-bound work.

I like the dresses, sitting like icons on the surface of the image(s), the least. They feel dialogically tired (but I will stop short of explaining).

2 upvotes
Woodlink
By Woodlink (7 months ago)

what we need here is more cat pictures to oooh and aaah over about sharpness.

At least this person has the gaul to actually be creative.

Comment edited 18 seconds after posting
5 upvotes
backayonder
By backayonder (7 months ago)

I wonder if she looks in her wardrobe and shouts to her husband "I've got nothing to wear."

0 upvotes
TomCreek
By TomCreek (7 months ago)

I'm guessing she's from back east, NY, Vermont maybe...no self-respecting Montana native would have time to produce this self-absored drivel.

1 upvote
inframan
By inframan (7 months ago)

Boy, do you have BIG identity issues.

10 upvotes
b craw
By b craw (7 months ago)

I support this environment where we can all contribute commentary about work, whether it be positive or negative. What seems problematic is when comments use overtly dismissive terms, failing to then explain or support their usage. "self-absorbed drivel" - why do you conclude this? I also hear "pretentious" quite often, and this is used as if everyone understands what is meant. Self-important? Well, given that putting forth artwork is inherently an activity of some self-importance (and, yes, indulgence), I am left to assume what might be meant is a degree of this that feels insincere in some way. But this is just speculation.

It might be good to note that hit-and-run commentary can be construed as pretentious; self-important in a way that one thinks he/she need not feel responsible to qualify claims.

1 upvote
jkoch2
By jkoch2 (7 months ago)

Albus was born in Billings and has lived in MT more or less continuously for 25 years.

The Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Flathead, Crow, and other native Montana residents probably don't object to her work, either.

2 upvotes
jvossphoto
By jvossphoto (7 months ago)

I get the feeling Tom is resentful and jealous about Jean's unique style and the success she's enjoying.

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
1 upvote
BartyLobethal
By BartyLobethal (7 months ago)

I'm surprised a "self-respecting Montana native" would have time to post insular opinions on a photography website.

1 upvote
Piciul
By Piciul (7 months ago)

@thecameraeye
"Pink Floyd included a similar photograph opposite the lyrics of Shine on You Crazy Diamond in the Wish You Were Here lyrics booklet."

A red veil in the wind:
http://pinkfloydarchives.com/Discog/US/CD/WYWH/WYWH11D/IC.jpg

A close comparison for what I'm seeing here is a photograph of a dead fly floating in a soup.

1 upvote
twbazz
By twbazz (7 months ago)

Combining decaying dress with nature is mind blowingly insane..Interesting work of art..Never seen this level of creativity in photography before..

1 upvote
sfphotoarts
By sfphotoarts (7 months ago)

self-indulgence masquerading as art. It's been done many times before and with far more skill and depth.

4 upvotes
Woodlink
By Woodlink (7 months ago)

examples?

2 upvotes
TakePictures
By TakePictures (7 months ago)

That's called hindsight: Just as you think that this has been done before (or your little sister could have done it), you're too late. Some people are just more creative than others.

1 upvote
Optimal Prime
By Optimal Prime (7 months ago)

Ars gratia artis

1 upvote
snow14
By snow14 (7 months ago)

ok i guss that worth talking about wow.

0 upvotes
fad
By fad (7 months ago)

As an old fashioned guy, I don't get all the criticism. She's worked very hard, and some of the images are very good.

Now, I do think she just doesn't have quite enough artistic imagination to realize the full potential of her conceit. But how many people do? I would have liked to see more meditation on how a dress is not just an object, but something that echoes and once joined with a human body. I would like to see a meditation on how time affects both the landscape and the body, decays both, and endues both with a terrifying beauty.

But artists of that caliber are not on dpr's radar, and would not communicate to us gearheads.

9 upvotes
jkoch2
By jkoch2 (7 months ago)

Van Gogh was obsessed with yellows and worn-out clothes, shoes, and ragged people. The world reviled or was indifferent. All were, and remain, naive. Established tastes evolve, and we are its minions.

BTW: "conceit" and "concept" have the same etymological roots. In Portuguese, conceito is the only word. Art (and just about everything else) require conceit and concept.

4 upvotes
b craw
By b craw (7 months ago)

Jkoch2, interesting. Careful though; using a term like 'etymological' could get you branded as pretentious, or worse, an academic.

0 upvotes
Jcradford
By Jcradford (7 months ago)

Creative and well executed, and more important they mean something special to the photographer, her theme of aging. I don't get all the criticism ... I'm reminded of commercial artist John Falter in the 1970's who was commissioned by 3M for a bicentennial series of six large oils, and hid a contemporary artifact in each, ie a pencil, or plastic Baggie, etc. But maybe the gear-heads here arn't much for creativity or art, not that all art is my taste.

5 upvotes
SookMai
By SookMai (7 months ago)

Agree!

0 upvotes
dccdp
By dccdp (7 months ago)

It's always disturbing to see other people's fetishes.

2 upvotes
jkoch2
By jkoch2 (7 months ago)

Yes. People obsessed with big cameras, hefty lenses, or how pictures look at pixel level have a strange mental life. The only mirrors they can bear are the ones locked inside a DSLR.

15 upvotes
Steve Balcombe
By Steve Balcombe (7 months ago)

"The only mirrors they can bear are the ones locked inside a DSLR."

Very profound! And with more than a hint of truth.

1 upvote
Wye Photography
By Wye Photography (7 months ago)

If the photographer had done this with underware instead of dresses, could the photographs then be described as pants?

1 upvote
nicolas guilbert
By nicolas guilbert (7 months ago)

Some quite good ones among the 30 on her website.

1 upvote
stevens37y
By stevens37y (7 months ago)

Original but not very environment friendly.

0 upvotes
cgarrard
By cgarrard (7 months ago)

No less friendly than an animal carcass laying about. Apparently she takes them back after completing the shot.

I'm sure the earth can handle it.

1 upvote
itsastickup
By itsastickup (7 months ago)

Original? Like eating caviar with ketchup.

0 upvotes
TomCreek
By TomCreek (7 months ago)

"environment friendly" you're joking, right?

0 upvotes
stevens37y
By stevens37y (7 months ago)

@TomCreek: evidently :)

0 upvotes
Wodheila
By Wodheila (7 months ago)

<i>"She leaves dresses to weather in her harsh surroundings before photographing them, sometimes for as long as four years."</i>

So, after waiting four years, she photographs one and pastes it against a picture of the sky and....voila!...art?

2 upvotes
Keith Reeder
By Keith Reeder (7 months ago)

Contrived, pretentious drivel.

10 upvotes
jkoch2
By jkoch2 (7 months ago)

CPD? In a word: art. What variety of CPD sends a tickle through your scruff?

0 upvotes
Woodlink
By Woodlink (7 months ago)

as is your comment

0 upvotes
dynaxx
By dynaxx (7 months ago)

Worthless gimmickry rather like Dali has done in the world of fine Art. My test is how long I would want that on my wall at home - 5 minutes max'.

5 upvotes
Woodlink
By Woodlink (7 months ago)

suppose you think Warhol was a genius?

1 upvote
madeinlisboa
By madeinlisboa (7 months ago)

Since I saw a gallery full of photographs of anus i believe anything is possible..... i call it the contemporary trash and we don't deserve it.

2 upvotes
b craw
By b craw (7 months ago)

Are you (we) deserving of something in particular?

0 upvotes
wootpile
By wootpile (7 months ago)

Art?.. but these pics don't convey any feelings.. none, whatsoever.

There is a name for this kind of stuff: Vanity Art same as Vanity Publishing, google it.

Anyone has the right to call their work art, by all means. I simply don't like this particular representation of it. Cheap, gimmick, try harder.

My main concern is why dpreview chooses to highlight her work.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 10 minutes after posting
5 upvotes
areichow
By areichow (7 months ago)

waaaaaaaaaaa

1 upvote
sixtiesphotographer
By sixtiesphotographer (7 months ago)

I think this is clumsy and pretentious nonsense.

At least Dali was clever, creative, thought-provoking, and humorous.

ObPhotoContent: the "Dali Atomicus" photo by Phillipe Halsman, representing an extreme macro interpretation of atomic particles in suspension. No Photoshop or LR, just water, cats, string, and 28 attempts.

6 upvotes
wootpile
By wootpile (7 months ago)

I agree, Dali offers room food for thought.. about the work and perhaps even more about what was going on in his mind. This stuff shown here lacks any depth whatsoever, at least in my eye.

2 upvotes
jkoch2
By jkoch2 (7 months ago)

Dali: rotting corpses, coprophilia, transgender messiahs, mutiliation. Plus egregious commercial aplomb. All a matter of taste. Take your pick.

1 upvote
rurikw
By rurikw (7 months ago)

Surprising how many are left cold by these images. Greg Fallis' comment on her website ("Not just any dress") expresses his (and my) feelings about her work so eloquently that I can't add a word. What makes me visit dpr every day is the huge diversity. The speed with which the site has expanded to cover all imaginable aspects of photography from tech to art is impressive.

0 upvotes
Mister J
By Mister J (7 months ago)

Love the taste of Rene Magritte in these images, so I count as one of the arty ones and would like to view her show.

Vid didn't do too much for me though - probably better using micro-clips, and maybe a minute or so long.

(Edited for spelling)

Comment edited 28 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
Boissez
By Boissez (7 months ago)

Yup my first thought was Magritte as well. Or a Mike Oldfield album cover.

0 upvotes
Gintaras_J
By Gintaras_J (7 months ago)

No, no,
as (former) art teacher, I should stay at negative side evaluating these photos/compositions. To use dresses in assemblages it's not bad idea, but there are other (better, from my point of view) ways to depict their entity, for example reinforce with gypsum and paint with spray, etc. etc..

0 upvotes
itsastickup
By itsastickup (7 months ago)

I don't think this passes the April the 1st test: if what bean-of-good-sense you might have would lead you to avoid publishing your 'art' on April the 1st, then you should pause and reflect.

2 upvotes
itsastickup
By itsastickup (7 months ago)

Deeply artsy fartsy. With more of the fartsy than the artsy.

5 upvotes
groucher
By groucher (7 months ago)

Think I'll take some shots of my snotty hankies or old socks. Some art-farty types are so easily conned that this stuff is has any value.

2 upvotes
Dmatter
By Dmatter (7 months ago)

Look so cool and interesting

0 upvotes
Mister J
By Mister J (7 months ago)

Nice imagery.

The vid doesn't seem to work on my iPad though.

0 upvotes
Jeff Seltzer
By Jeff Seltzer (7 months ago)

To all the haters below...don't worry, I'm sure it's only a matter of time before DPR features your museum quality pictures of babies, sunsets, butterfly macros, and cats...hold tight!

17 upvotes
cgarrard
By cgarrard (7 months ago)

I was just thinking along those lines. Or more that gearheads and forum trolls really aren't really the type to comment on this kind of story.

Personally I'm not quick to judge- I'm going to let this stew for a while before I have a final opinion on it.

1 upvote
TN Args
By TN Args (7 months ago)

Excellent photos, thanks for the article. Pity about the ignorant commentators.

12 upvotes
Ernest M Aquilio
By Ernest M Aquilio (7 months ago)

I agree

0 upvotes
itsastickup
By itsastickup (7 months ago)

Ignorant of what? Bad taste?

5 upvotes
Keith Reeder
By Keith Reeder (7 months ago)

Nice Straw Man there, Jeff.

Proof that there is indeed one born every minute...

1 upvote
Ernest M Aquilio
By Ernest M Aquilio (7 months ago)

Taste is subjective. Clearly some people are on different levels of thought than others.

0 upvotes
b craw
By b craw (7 months ago)

Itsastickup - please explain why it is "bad taste".

0 upvotes
webrunner5
By webrunner5 (7 months ago)

Wow, what can I say. And this is ART??

4 upvotes
andyvanzz
By andyvanzz (7 months ago)

I don't find the concept very appealing for viewing. Everyone's taste is different but this is a bit extreme in my opinion; like mixing fish with cake in culinary I would say. I really like the landscapes though; as if they were completely "undressed" :)

4 upvotes
squiggledoodle
By squiggledoodle (7 months ago)

Thank you DP Review! These photographs are compelling and distinctive in a good way. So many landscape photographs are impersonal - most can't be identified with a particular artist the way, say, a Rothko is immediately identifiable. These images are creative and speak about this photographer's concerns, and are beautiful as well. While everyone has a right to their views and individual tastes, I was dismayed by many of the comments, which dismissed them crudely and quickly - these comments reminded me of similar comments that greeted the first Impressionist exhibits, and Van Gogh's work, etc.... The thoughtful critiques here are another matter; even if thoroughly negative, they can be constructive.

2 upvotes
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (7 months ago)

Sorry, but there's more art on a Laundromat.

Each to his/her own.

Nobody's right, nobody's wrong.

It's not all gray and flat.

On a Laundromat.

.

14 upvotes
G Cogger
By G Cogger (7 months ago)

This proves either that you can create art from almost anything, or that you can take almost anything and claim it to be art.

15 upvotes
cgarrard
By cgarrard (7 months ago)

Define art.

0 upvotes
Optimal Prime
By Optimal Prime (7 months ago)

Artsy stuff is great. But not at the expense of camera reviews. That's not why I visit this site.

Given the prodigious backlog of reviews, shouldn't DPR put more effort into clearing it and finally be as current as other major review sites?

4 upvotes
Gerard Hoffnung
By Gerard Hoffnung (7 months ago)

You apparently believe that it's a one or the other system. I'm sure that dpreview is more than capable of showing other photographers artwork without sacrificing the technical nitty gritty so beloved of some commenters. Isn't the whole point of photography to create an image. Some of photography's most iconic images have been created using equipment that doesn't hold a candle to the quality even a modern point and shoot can do. One of the reasons I really like this web site is that it inspires me with some of the images created by brilliant photographers as well as keeping me up to date with the latest technology. Most modern high quality cameras can produce images far beyond the needs of the imagination of most of us and definitely beyond my limited capabilities.

3 upvotes
Mrrowe8
By Mrrowe8 (7 months ago)

Yeah exactly another review of a machine so more soulless images can be created by mindless imaginationless photo geeks and talk mega pixels , lenses and other things that mean nothing other then u know the mechanics of how it work ..

2 upvotes
thecameraeye
By thecameraeye (7 months ago)

Actually I almost look forward to articles like these more than the reviews themselves. I love the reviews but stuff like this is about improving the most important piece of gear in the photographic process: the photographer.

3 upvotes
Keith Reeder
By Keith Reeder (7 months ago)

Mrrowe8, you ARE aware that this is a gear site, arent you?

Not some repository of pompous, jumped-up little pseuds who make themselves feel better about themselves by trying to convince the rest of us that they're cleverer than those who see this worthless tat for what it is?

1 upvote
Rob Bernhard
By Rob Bernhard (7 months ago)

[[Mrrowe8, you ARE aware that this is a gear site, arent you?]]

Keith,
The website is called Digital Photography Review, not Digital Camera Review.

3 upvotes
b craw
By b craw (7 months ago)

Keith, I guess 20 years in photography and over a decade teaching at the college makes me a "jumped-up little pseud". You are a real piece of work. Consider your invite to the BBQ rescinded.

0 upvotes
Braxton7
By Braxton7 (7 months ago)

Top one reminds me of a Dali painting. Haven't looked at the website. I do often wonder about the clothes and shoes you see on the side of the highway sometimes. Where do they come from and why?

0 upvotes
Gerard Hoffnung
By Gerard Hoffnung (7 months ago)

Interesting point. I was out riding my bicycle recently and noticed a sports bra lying in the ditch alongside the road. Kept my imagination going for quite a while as I tried to figure various scenarios as to how it got there :)

6 upvotes
cgarrard
By cgarrard (7 months ago)

LOL! I bet it did.

0 upvotes
aarif
By aarif (7 months ago)

i don't find it interesting putting it mildly

17 upvotes
tripodfan
By tripodfan (7 months ago)

if you don't find putting it mildly to be interesting, then don't put it mildly...

3 upvotes
backayonder
By backayonder (7 months ago)

The Emporer has no clothes he is absolutely starkers!

2 upvotes
bigdaddave
By bigdaddave (7 months ago)

I have a large collection of polaroids of my old underwear, would anyone like to make an offer for them?
What a load of old nonsense this is.

Comment edited 24 seconds after posting
21 upvotes
Lenscraft
By Lenscraft (7 months ago)

Clearly your old underwear is the best that you can contribute to this conversation.

13 upvotes
bigdaddave
By bigdaddave (7 months ago)

To this conversation, yes. It isn't worth more

3 upvotes
b craw
By b craw (7 months ago)

Dave, I can't understand what you are saying with the underwear over your face.

0 upvotes
mandophoto
By mandophoto (7 months ago)

In my walks along river beds I occasionally find remnants of clothing which have at times seemed plaintive and beautiful. However, my attempts at making empathic photographs from those findings have so far not been successful. Thanks DPreview, did not know of Ms. Albus. She has done some beautiful work.

5 upvotes
InTheMist
By InTheMist (7 months ago)

The images on her website were much better.

Thought provoking.

0 upvotes
Greynerd
By Greynerd (7 months ago)

Art that needs explanation is not art at all.

20 upvotes
straylightrun
By straylightrun (7 months ago)

That's rather pretentious.

9 upvotes
Lenscraft
By Lenscraft (7 months ago)

It's also misleading. The art shown above doesn't require explanation. That the artist chose to do so is her decision, but it is hardly necessary to appreciate the work.

12 upvotes
Mrrowe8
By Mrrowe8 (7 months ago)

Your an idiot ..just a flat out idiot

4 upvotes
Keith Reeder
By Keith Reeder (7 months ago)

And you're a self-absorbed little poseur, Mrrowe8.

4 upvotes
b craw
By b craw (7 months ago)

"Art that needs explanation is not art at all"

That would make a great bumper sticker. Unfortunately it is not supported by most substative theory or art history. Okay to have it as your opinion, though. I, for one, enjoy this work without explanation.

0 upvotes
Looleylaylow
By Looleylaylow (7 months ago)

Cheese. But I'm sure there's a prog rock album cover awaiting discovery somewhere in her collection.

6 upvotes
thecameraeye
By thecameraeye (7 months ago)

Pink Floyd included a similar photograph opposite the lyrics of Shine on You Crazy Diamond in the Wish You Were Here lyrics booklet.

3 upvotes
Higuel
By Higuel (7 months ago)

humm, that is really interesting! so much for originality!
I wish u could post a photo or link of it! :)

0 upvotes
creative1958
By creative1958 (7 months ago)

I have seen this dress in the landscape so many from so many artists its getting boring. I think more time on mastering photographic skills and less on past ideas of other artists might help the creative process. Keep trying however. Don't give up.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 107