With the flurry of distractions inhabiting our modern lives, it’s easy to overlook the subtle beauty that’s scattered throughout them. In a photo series with the working title People, American photographer and artist Chad Pitman captures exactly this kind of heightened awareness, by zooming in on people and their idiosyncrasies. There’s a certain feeling of closeness that emerges from within when clinging to the details of those around you, whether it’s lingering on the expressive bend of a lover’s finger or pondering the striking scar on a stranger’s cheek. “How often do you get to look so closely at someone’s waist, their belt, their hands, their mouth?” Pitman asks us. “Only in the most intimate moments do you really go to look at that. Or maybe in the memories of these moments.”
Earlier on in his career as a photographer, Pitman had been shooting portraits of people so routinely that he became disillusioned by the superficiality of the act. That’s when he decided to take a break and focus more on painting, collage and still lifes. During this time, he started a project that involved shooting fruit against coloured backgrounds as they faded, changed shape and decayed over time. “I focused on the fruits’ texture, the way the skins wrinkled, the light and the colour. They became characters themselves and symbols for what the viewer wanted to see in them,” he explained. “Then I decided I wanted to shoot people with the same approach.”
After moving to Los Angeles from New York three years ago, Pitman started to become inspired and attuned to his surroundings again – the light, the people, the landscapes. He said that LA has had a profoundly positive influence on his creative work. Interestingly enough, People stemmed from his desire to be closer to those around him. “I wanted to find a way to connect with people better in my life and once I was doing that, I was also connecting better with people in my pictures,” he added.
For this photo series, which is shot completely on film and in landscape format, Pitman worked with friend and casting director Shay Nielsen to find subjects he thought would be suitable. “The project is like a time capsule. I wanted it to be its own moment in time, I wanted it to be LA,” he said. “To me these images become landscapes just as much as they are people.”
Chad Pitman’s work is on display in the exhibition Young Blood at Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles, until April 8, 2017.