We are first asked to discuss a photograph that takes an existing work of art as its starting point. The image I have chosen is ‘The Creation of Adam’ from Freddy Fabris’s Renaissance series. I came across this photographer’s work purely by chance on Twitter, and love the jokey ambience of this series. Below is my chosen image and the painting on which it is based – Michaelangelo’s Creation of Adam, which is a fresco and part of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
© Freddy Fabris
Michaelangelo’s Creation of Adam, from the Sistine Chapel
Fabris is an American advertising photographer with a background in painting, and as a personal project he began to look at ways in which he could reference the great Renaissance artists through his own photography. Inspiration struck when he visited a car mechanic’s repair shop and a relatively extensive series was born, which can be viewed in full at https://www.fabrisphoto.com/SERIES/Renaissance/. Each of the works in the series references a different well-known painting from the period, using the backgrounds and faces from the repair shop to reconstruct images that are clearly very influenced by the original work, while remaining obviously modern. In fact, when placed side by side, one realises that the referencing is more in the viewer’s mind than the actual image.
So how can we look at Fabris’s image and instantly know what he is pastiching? I think there are two elements to this. The first is the relative positioning of the two figures and the hands stretching out to met one another. While the original has a slightly homo-erotic feel based on Adam’s nakedness and the yearning expression on his face, in Fabris’s version the man who is lying down is quite obviously posing as if recalling the original and making a joke about the situation between him and the older man (playing God).
The second overlap relates to the lighting of the Fabris version, which is completely different from the original, but which strongly references the lighting favoured by artists such as Rembrandt, with its deep shadows and spot lighting. Alongside this, there is the scrupulous attention to detail and the complex arrangement of objects which while being entirely consistent with the mechanic’s repair shop, somehow take on the allegorical connotations which were popular during this period.
“I wanted to respect the look and feel of the originals, but needed to come up with a conceptual twist that would create a new layer to the original, to take them out of their original context, yet maintain their essence.” (Fabris in PetaPixel, 2015)
Through this sleight of hand, Fabris has managed to produce a series of work which appeals both to the art world and to the car mechanic’s world, as witnessed by the article 9 Photos of Car Mechanics Recreating Famous Renaissance Paintings’ in the magazine Popular Mechanics (2016).
Bruk, Diana (2016) ‘9 Photos of Car Mechanics Recreating Famous Renaissance Paintings’ In Popular Mechanics 16.08.2016 [online] At: https://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/a22320/auto-mechanics-renaissance-paintings/ (Accessed on 15 March 2018)
Fabris, Freddy (Website) [online] At: https://www.fabrisphoto.com/SERIES/Renaissance/ (Accessed on 15 March 2018)
Zhang, Michael (2015) ‘These Portraits of Auto Mechanics Are a Homage to Renaissance Paintings’. In Petapixel.com 22.10.2015 [online] At: https://petapixel.com/2015/10/22/these-portraits-of-auto-mechanics-are-a-homage-to-renaissance-paintings/ (Accessed on 15 March 2018)