The Michigan Daily-Wednesday, May 17, 1978-Page 9
Photographer shoots way to fame
S ae o ice, the clasroom stitute of Arts and the Halstead 831 Gallery. terior of scattered men and chicken cages piled on a
The teacher remained d her office, t bedor These photographs are a well-rounded represen- feather-strewn floor, and ending with a close-up of the
aslittl atenrin.rSvend tesonmeftjistbeggrdedr tation of the incredibly diverse images he has sought "soychet" having just completed the sacrifice, grip-
a little attention. Steven Benson left his 11th.grade out in the past and is pursuing today. Like many ping the blood stained scalpel with his teeth.
ohotography class to spend the hour doing photography artists, he sees himself and his work maturing with
rather than doin& nothing. When he returned to class it proa xeine i urn htssol LHUHTEEpcue eetkni eri
need to assert authority through regulations, Benson blossoming from those of the past. in 1975, to Benson they were taken in a world he was
needto sser auhoriy trouh reulaions Besonalientated from, a world that didn't know time. But, by
was kicked out of class. Now, seven years later, his SAYS BENSON, "There are certain qualities in earlier photographi g the ritual and experiencing a sensation of the
teacher is in the business of selling bumper stickers. photographs that still ties in with recent ones. But, I realize sudden warm spray from the chicken's neck, his ex-
Benson is also in the business of selling-selling his I'm ina purer state now. It's kind of like evolution. My growth
owB n g a sto sell his own work only acounts for in photography is always going to continue. I just know
a small part of the flux of excitement the 24-year-old Benson's hgas however, are so uniquely
Oby. He has won a number of photography awards, and powerful, so much of an intensely moving experience
in themselves, it makes one seriously wonder what his
Photographer Steven Benson takes up a religious sub-
ject in "Christ and Sweater." (1977)
has exhibited in many one-man shows including those
at the Detroit Public Library Gallery, the Detroit
Historical Museum, and Ann Arbor Art World's photo
gallery. Future exhibits include those in Grand Rapids and
Benson's work can also be found in the permanent
collections of the Detroit Historical Museum, and to his
delightful surprise, since March 3, in the French
Museum of Photography in Paris.
AFTER STUDYING photography for nine years,
four of which were spent at the Center for Creative
next step forward could be.
The image content of his book is fascinating in its
diversity, and covers a vast scope of life from the
decadence of Detroit flophouses, to the surreal ob-
trusiveness of looming billboards, to the delicate sen-
sitivity of nature. Despite this broad photographic sub-
ject matter, Benson's book comes through as one
beautifully unified work that has been carefully pieced
together with skill and perception.
The pictures in Photographs of the U.S. and Europe
relate to one another by the use of individual motifs
that run throughout. For example, a disturbing photo
of an elderly woman, screaming in pain and anguish
seated in a wheelchair within the impersonal and
sterile hospital confines, bears relationship to the pic-
ture that proceeds it. In this photo, of two dogs, lies a
small detail an old woman moving down the sidewalk,
but only with the help of a walking apparatus.
MANY OF Benson's photographs relate to some
aspect of religion. "The photograph is really an illusion
that people accept as the truth-that's how it relates to
Pnotograpner Steven Benson focuses in on a young boy
from Switzerland in "Basel Boy." (1977)
perience was no longer surreal and "something
straight from a Fellini movie," but reality.
It is this sense of personal involvement and delicate
interpretation of an intimate experience that makes
most of Benson's photographs so awesome. Yet, when
he goes out to photograph, he is often totally unaware
of what he's looking for, or what he may become.in-
"I can't go out looking for something. That can be
boring. But, to come across something and see it in a
way that you've never seen it before is exciting. When
visual relationships, spatial relationships and tones
come together before your eyes, in relationship to the
subject, I make the photograph."
His photograph of three men ice-fishing, also the
cover of his book, is probably one of his strongest per-
sonal statements of a mood. The men's backs in the
foreground are diffused by the plastic sheet, creating
an etheral and spaceous quality of ambiguity, while the
sharp detail of the horizon adds a visual resting point
and an element of credibility.
BUT, THE photograph really has nothing to do with
ice-fishing at all. Instead, it reveals a mode of timeless
existence. The blurred men are one single unit rather
than three separate entities. They are isolated from the
area around them in the same way the viewer is so
removed from their world.
"It typifies an existential mood," said Benson. "It's
timeless. There's this overwhelming sensation that
they each have the same fate."
Mood is integral to Benson's photography. He
usually makes ten prints of the same negative in a
variety of tones and contrasts before determining
which one best conveys a particular mood. Says Ben-
son, "The photograph in its final state is like 4
paragraph. Tones are the words and sentences. When
you change the tones you change the photograph's
mood and meaning."
There is much of Steven Benson invested in his
photographs, yet there is enough leeway for the per-
sonal interpretation of the viewer. Benson feels his
work is whatever the viewer makes of it. He deals with
his feelings. The viewer deals with his response.
And the response has been consistent. People find it
difficult to turn away from his book. There is always so
much more you can see and feel from the
photographs, and everytime they're examined it
becomes a richer, more personal experience.
While traveling througn Anenor nay, icnigan, Benson createu am of coi islain wnen m ---
observed "Three Men Ice Fishing." (1975)
religion," says Benson.
Sudies in Detroit, Benson has become far more than These photographs include a semi-humorous social
another "great local photographer." He is spinning commentary of suburbia with a near-to-life size statue
from the thrill and excitement of his recent success in 'of the Virgin Mary placed on an impeccably trimmed
the art that is as important to him as communication front lawn. Another includes his sense of the ritual of
itself. "Kaporas," a primitive chicken sacrifice that Or-
Contributing to his glowing sense of accomplish- thodox Jews have participated in for the last several
ment, Benson has just published his first book, entitled thousand years.
Photographs of the U.S. and Europe. The book contains These "Kaporas" pictures tell a story in themselves,
reproductions of photographs exhibited-at Art Worlds beginning with the exterior of an eerie, abandoned
last Fall, and is available at Art Worlds, the Detroit-In' looking live poultry market, moving tothe market's in-