Seth Fluker – Before Things Change

Copyright Seth Fluker, 2010 self-published/ Schnauzer Publications

The actual subject for Seth Fluker’s photobook, Before Things Change, his inaugural book with his new publication house, Schnauzer Books, is a very close look at the cleanup process following commercial food preparation. He benefited by this interesting perspective as a result of his position as a kitchen porter at Whole Foods Market in London, UK.

Fluker has framed his subject very tightly, removing the external context of the kitchen and sinks, to concentrate on the colorful creations evolving before him. Probably to a degree, he is a master of his fate as the principal alchemist who decides what goes at what moment into the cauldron, and to what degree this pot is stirred.

For this project, as is with most photographers, he needs to maintain a diligent eye as to what is magically appearing before him. Maybe he is not entirely in control of the entire process per se, but I assume that from past experience he is reacting to circumstances that he has experienced before. Not unlike an artist throwing paint at canvas, understanding from past experience that how she prepares the consistency of the paint as to what splashy and drippy effects might occur.

The photographs are a playful series of contemplative abstractions, varying in color, tonality, structure of the masses with variations in the lines and shapes. I have found myself seeing faces, animals and objects as I continue to study them.  Similar to kicking back on a summer day and gazing up into a cluster of cumulus clouds, looking to see what forms the clouds might take on.

There are relative amounts of transparency and opaqueness, even within the same photograph, and for some, an effect of what appears as a glowing center region, creating an interesting illusion of depth. I have the impression that I could be looking into an abyss, onto a beach or up into a sky of stars and traces of universe, and realizing that I might be able to see the interweaving of the past, present and future and hints of the infinity that extends beyond.

Fluker also varies the duration of exposure and edges become soft and elastic. It adds a mysterious dimension to his abstractions. Some patterns have sharply delineated and others are soft mass and shapes. Slight movement of the mixture provides some movement and life within an another wise static medium.

This is an interesting photobook, but also one that is very much endangered of becoming trite and borders on cliché. The close examination of an environmental condition, much like extracting details from a deterioriated and multi-layered posters, to isolate new forms and abstract patterns has been an aesthetic practice since the abstract expressionist period in the 1950’s and 60’. Nevertheless, the careful editing by Fluker of his photographs does engender further consideration.

The book has a stiff cover with a saddle stitch binding, and this slim book includes one gate-fold page to permit one impressive size set of interior images. Printed on a glossy stock and the pre-press preparation details were paid nice attention to as the color images read really well.

by Douglas Stockdale

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