These are quite good. Krauss has a real sensibility, and these images reveal a dimension of him that many of his academic colleagues -- and former governmental friends -- might never have guessed.
At their best, these images reveal an inner narrative, an implicit visual pilgrimage into the composition and into the heart of a metaphoric moment that Krauss can see. This sense of escape into the image counterpoints a general compositional symmetry that could easily become merely stale, formulaic and confining. Somehow -- and that's his magic -- Krauss avoids this and achieves equipoise rather than frozen stability. Consider this mountainscape from Colorado -- the eye travel up through the center of the image, the heart of the valley, then leaps to the distant peak that serves as a fulcrum upon which the entire sky is balanced. The symmetry is almost but not quite perfect, just enough off to keep the eye moving, creating that sense of "dynamic equilibrium" (as Mondrian said in another context) - of interlocked forces arrested mid stride.
Yes, there are thousands of similar images available from countless sources. What makes Krauss's photographs better? Visually, it's just a subtle centimeter one way or another, the slightest measure of proportion or placement, the same difference that makes one face somehow just more handsome than another that might otherwise be its twin.
It is this ballet of the almost-symmetrical and the nearly centered that creates the inner life of the images -- as if the artists knew the eye reaches for that perfection but the head knows it is always just beyond our grasp, even if only by an inch or a centimeter. In that gap, we hear the heart of Krauss's work.
For me, as a dyed-in-the-canvas painter (and former art critic for The Indianapolis Star), photography is a challenge and a conundrum on a semi-philosophical level: What degree of manipulation/management of viewing angle and compositional dynamic is acceptable to achieve harmonies or alignments that we immediately accept in the “made-from-scratch” graphic arts such as painting, where we accept the fact a priori that our view has been constructed (rather than managed)?
I think for me it comes down to a question of whether the manipulation/management is so artfully choreographed that the maker achieves a suitably complex and compelling viewing experience. When that implicit viewing pilgrimage is so complex, then we “forgive” the camera for managing our view. But, of course, that’s just one man’s opinion of sunlight. In my opinion, Krauss handles that light extremely well.
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© John L. Krauss Photography