Film Noir
Project info

Film Noir
Film Noir revisits the themes of the classic black-and-white films of the 1940s and 50s, but with the lush saturated colors for which I am known. The solitary figures contemplating the unknown reference the ethical and philosophical dilemmas laid bare in those stories. While the traditional Film Noir hero’s code of honor is clear, my images remain blurred and unresolved, hinting at the increased uncertainties of the contemporary viewpoint.

Film Noir is made using my unique process of collaging appropriated images, then re-photographing them out of focus with the lens set to infinity. The images are taken from a variety of sources: advertising; stock material; iconic street photographs and landscape painting. An astute observer might recognize a figure from Winogrand or Cartier Bresson, for example, or a background from a Hudson River School landscape.

As I subvert the photographic norm, shooting close up with a setting normally used for distance and detail, the edges within the collages disappear and the blurred photographs appear to be seamless, integrated images. This sleight of hand allows me to conjure a mysterious tromp l'oeil world that hovers between the real and the fantastic. The nature of visual perception intrigues me: how the eye continually tries to resolve these images, but is unable to do so, and how that is unsettling. I am drawn to the idea that we can believe something is real, while at the same time knowing it is illusory; that the experience of visual confusion, when the psyche is momentarily derailed, is what frees us to respond emotionally.

Film Noir exists in a world just beyond our grasp, where place may be suggested, but is never defined, and where the identity of the amorphous figures remains in question. It is a world freed from the restraints of conventional photography, a world that might exist in memory, in dreams, or, perhaps, in a parallel universe yet unvisited.

Bill Armstrong