I was a bit early for my coffee meeting with John at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and decided to be productive and take a few closer photos of Sophie Cave’s Floating Heads sculptural installation there.
There are a lot of references to this work as being creepy, eerie or unnerving, a gateway to horror of sorts.
I suppose it can be a throwback to an early horror cinematography trope where the evil dolls, mummies or the undead turned out animate in a magnificent Victorian mansion or museum setting. There is a vague but perceptible cultural nod to this film cliche of the Floating Heads in the grand context of Kelvingrove Museum.
There is also a sense of grotesque viewing a collection of scowling, wincing, laughing, sneering and pouting faces, as if the Victorian hall ceiling becomes a giant Kunstkammer, a curiosity display of human foibles, or a panopticon where these foibles can be surveyed and controlled.
The overall effect is almost gaudy with the assembly of contorted facial expressions and grimacing and gaping mouths competing for attention.
While photographing art I tend to use my camera gear as an instrument of visual engagement.
I usually have a prime lens, 35mm or 45mm, fitted on my camera for urban photography, for their superior sharpness and micro contrast.
However, it was clearly not a very good choice for documenting this artwork as these lenses just duplicate a human eye perspective, leaving the viewer overwhelmed by the multitude of distant suspended heads and some inconvenience of upward neck-bending.
Fortunately, that day I had a zoom lens packed that afforded more intimate viewing angles, allowing me to focus on grimacing heads at the eye-level portrait distances, and, ultimately, a deeper engagement.
Zoom made it possible to come up with impromptu altercations or engagements between scowling and sneering faces, abstracted and forced artificial conversations via framing inaccessible to the human eye.
I wasn’t aiming at any particular originality, Hanging Heads having been photographed so many times since their installation. It’s just a personal inquiry into what I felt while exploring this artwork.