Robert Richfield
September 8–October 14, 2017
Artist’s Reception: Friday, October 6 / 5:30–8:00 PM
Gallery Kayafas

Richfield first became interested in photography as a teenager. He attended the Rhode Island School of Design and received a BFA and MFA in Photography in 1969 and 1972.  During his time at RISD, he studied with Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind, whose photographs profoundly influenced him.

Richfield has employed his distinctive multi-paneled format for over 30+ years. Early in his career, he felt unsatisfied by single images and began to create large-scale color panoramas consisting of separate panels joined together to form one.  Extending this perspective, as he rotates his camera, often through more than 360 degrees, Richfield is able to photograph not only what is in front of him but what surrounds him – beyond his normal field of vision – creating images that are a direct result of his constant effort to see and reveal more. Richfield’s technique forms an optical illusion realized in the assembled photographs implying an accurate depiction of space; in actuality, he has created his own alternate reality. ABRIDGED continues to show us more than can be seen.

“Bridges have always intrigued me—their construction, their scale, their interaction with the water below. I grew up in Cincinnati, a city with five bridges spanning the Ohio River. As a child, I spent countless hours building models and dismantling/reassembling objects, eager to discover how they were made. Cincinnati’s bridges seemed like giant building block sets.

As a teenager, working summers in my father’s pathology lab, I began to think metaphorically about bridges. I imagined their function in anatomical terms—like aortas, connecting the arteries (roads) to allow the blood cells (cars) to circulate. I also took visual note of the disparate worlds these overpasses spliced together: affluent/northern neighborhoods and poor/southern neighborhoods. It was these insights that first drew me to bridges as photographic subjects.

My initial attempts to photograph Cincinnati’s bridges left me frustrated because I was unable to produce the scale I desired in a single frame. At the public library, I had seen a panoramic daguerreotype of the city waterfront and wished I could create such an expansive image. Years later, my interest resurfaced when I realized I could construct large-scale panoramas by seaming together single prints of 4×5 negative segments. Later, upon switching to digital, I was able to simplify this process, printing entire multi-panel panoramas on a single roll of paper.

I made my first successful bridge panoramas in the 1990s, in France’s Dordogne Valley. Influenced by the formalist approach of my mentors, I chose to omit cars from these photographs in order to depict the medieval structures as integral elements of the bucolic landscape.

With the evolution of my vision, my concept of context has become increasingly enriched and texturized, with formalism as more of a backdrop. At present, I attempt to capture the motion and commotion of each bridge’s unique, hyperkinetic environment. After determining my vantage point and positioning my tripod, I deconstruct the expanse, making many exposures of each frame, often going back and forth between them. Doing so enables me to capture teenagers making faces, police telling me to move, drawbridges opening, trams passing, boats floating into view. I capitalize on fleeting fluctuations in motion, light, shadows, and reflections. I then reconstruct these panels into a unified line, exploring the tension between movement, stillness, and variation that appears within each frame.

My bridge photographs are abridged. They are constrained by both the setting and the limitations of my body and equipment—I cannot include all that I see. For me, however, the art of photography is creating a visual environment comprised of what is omitted as much as what is included.”