© Simon Larson
Skye photographer, Simon Larson created this series entitled ‘Typologies’ during the national lockdown of 2020-21. His work aims to reshape perception and focus viewers’ attention on both familiar objects and portraits, transforming the visual representations into art.
The technical process of documenting objects in the typology genre can be perceived as ‘cold’, objective and systematic – something husband and wife Bernd and Hilla Becher resolutely adhered to, and excelled at, while documenting European water towers, blast furnaces, and coal shaft lift towers.
However, the focus of Larson’s work facilitates objective comparison of subjects that share similar visual characteristics, as well as creating a relationship between subjects that share no obvious visual connection. In some of his works, the objects have been further contextualised through informal groupings along with the addition of text, frames, grids, and overlays. This creates opportunities for viewers to elicit emotive responses to the works.
Portrait photographers such as Francis Galton in the 19th century, August Sander in the 20th Century and Lalage Snow in the 21st Century produced portraits in the typology style for the purposes of criminal profiling, sociological analysis and psychological transformation documentation. Consequently, all three photographers actively influenced the outcome of their portraits – both technically in terms of the lighting style, lens choice and aperture settings, and in terms of how they posed their sitters, the use of backgrounds and where they were photographed.
In contrast, Larson’s typology portraits (all made during 1977-79), are democratic in nature, removing the dominant role that the photographer plays. Instead, the sitters have complete control as to how they portray themselves with the then ubiquitous photobooth utilised as the automated photographic recording tool. While the sitters were confined to a small space, they had the choice of three backgrounds. The one consistent feature common to all the portraits is the standard three-way flash lighting the photobooth provided.
Larson’s typologies reveal an insight into his eclectic thought processes and creative influences. There are occasional nods to Gilbert and George and Irving Penn and the odd wink towards Ed Ruscha and John Baldessari as well as early 20th century surrealists.