What Makes An Icon?

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We hope that everyone is staying safe and healthy in this challenging time.

Sometimes, when I am drawn to photograph an object, it’s because the object is iconic, or generally representative of the type of object that it is. When approaching just how to photograph it, I feel the need to “monumentalize” the object. After all, I’m trying to convey to the viewer my feelings about the very iconic nature of that subject.

It’s no secret that I admire machinery, tools, especially those that were made many years ago, when durability and functionality was combined with design in a way that, sadly, disappeared for many decades. Fortunately, today, there is a resurgence of the appreciation of aesthetics in the design of practical objects. I think most of us can recall a period of time, probably reaching its zenith in the 70’s and 80’s, when practical objects were typically angular and beige! This was, in my opinion, a low point in the history of product design. Because of my interest in older objects, it makes sense that I would appreciate the industrial design aesthetics of an earlier time.

This 1960s era Craftsman Sabre Saw is one of those objects. I just love the heavy cast aluminum construction and although this piece of machinery was made many decades ago, it still works! There’s something to be said for that, also.

Light Painting Photograph of Vintage Craftsman Sabre Saw by Photographer Harold Ross

Craftsman Sabre Saw, circa 1960, Photography by Harold Ross

 

This Vintage Chesterman Sheffield Tape Measure (made in England) is also a favorite of mine. Although not a great example of how aesthetics influenced the final design, it is certainly a thing of beauty. The leather case, after many decades of use, has achieved a patina that can only be described as gorgeous.

 

Light Painting Photograph of Vintage Chesterman Sheffield Tape Measure by Photographer Harold Ross

Chesterman Sheffield Tape Measure, circa early 1900s, Photography by Harold Ross

 

Another favorite object of mine is this classic Swingline Stapler, circa 1960. If ever a stapler could be reminiscent of a racy motorbike (which I love), this is the one! Another objective of mine is to get across to the viewer the many functional elements that had to be incorporated into the aesthetic design in a smooth and unobtrusive way. I feel that the designer here accomplished that.

 

Light Painting Photograph of Vintage Swingline Stapler by Photographer Harold Ross

Swingline Stapler, circa 1960, Photography by Harold Ross

I truly believe that objects can offer a glimpse into the past, and in some cases, they can contain some of the spirit of the people that owned or used them. My goal is to try to somehow get some of that spirit across in a photograph.

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Thank you for visiting! To learn more about my image making process, please see the Tutorials page of this blog, or consider taking a workshop!

For workshop information please click HERE .

All images from students over the years are HERE.

 

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~ by Harold Ross on May 9, 2020.

9 Responses to “What Makes An Icon?”

  1. Post a self-portrait. Now there’s an icon.

  2. Thanks for sharing Harold . Like yourself I am drawn to old tools , some might say that is because I’m an old tool myself. I love the design of old tools and machinery and I am in awe of the craftsmen who designed and made these objects . These tools were also designed so that the various parts could be replaced when they broke and you would receive a parts list diagram with each product . I think your light painting method does justice to these objects in a way that normal photography couldn’t achieve .

  3. You have an amazing ability and gift to show the design beauty of “every day” tools and objects. I find myself of two mindsets: one that simply enjoys the beauty of your photograph and the other trying to figure out how you did it! I always enjoy your art. Thank you for sharing and hope that y’all are doing well, too.

  4. I always enjoy seeing your work. It brings back memories of a different time and place. My favorite of the three has to be the Swingline Stapler. I love the color and the way you brought out the curvatures with highlights and shadows. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I always enjoy seeing your work. It brings back memories of a different time and place. My favorite of the three has to be the Swingline Stapler. I love the color and the way you brought out the curvatures with highlights and shadows. Thanks for sharing.

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