The Sublime Photography of Marie Cosindas
Lately, stray thoughts about the question of what style is have started to neatly coalesce in my mind around the idea that getting dressed is an art form. Dressing well, a craft (more on this here and here). We each have a canvas, a sense of our personal taste, some amount of tools or resources, and a limitless amount of creativity to create something that makes an emotional impression.
Consumerism proposes style as something we can buy, so we think about filling that canvas in the rigid terms of consumption, and with the accompanying intellectual framework that consumption thrusts upon us: conformity, inadequacy, excess and emptiness. Because getting dressed is an art form, this narrowed sense of self-agency coupled with the mitigated role for our natural creative beings—the tragedy of creativity giving way to consumption— is so disempowering. I'm not buying that anymore, literally, and instead thinking: what are all of the interesting, captivating things I can bring to my canvas?
For a reminder of the wildness of our imagination, I am endlessly inspired by the work of Marie Cosindas, one of the 20th century's most important photographers. In 1962, at a time when serious photography was only done in black and white, Polaroid approached Cosindas to ask her to pilot the use of their new instant color film. She agreed, and then promptly started making remarkable color photographs, with an attention to color, composition, and texture evocative of painting. When Ms. Cosindas died earlier this year at 93, she was remembered as the photographer who turned color photography into an art form. What an immense contribution to humanity. All because she rejected the idea that photography had to be a certain way, and instead took a blank canvas, and filled it with limitlessness.
What is style according to Marie Consindas? Perhaps it might be this. Style is to refuse and reframe, and then to bask in the expansiveness of that space.