While introducing his students to Lazlo Moholy-Nagy through a 1936 essay called “Photography: a New Instrument of Vision,” artist Patterson Beckwith became personally interested in a section titled “The Eight Varieties of Photographic Vision.” It is a very simple list that describes what is possible to do with the medium—photograms, reportage, snapshots, timed exposures, infrared photography, x-rays, transparent superimposition, and optical illusions.
“Bananas for Moholy-Nagy” is a photo illustration Beckwith produced using all the methods on the list with a single banana for each image. In 2009 LACMA acquired the series of photographs and created a small publication of the project, available in the Art Catalogues store in the Ahmanson Building.
Why a banana? Beckwith explains: “The bananas are slightly harder to explain. The work is not ‘about’ bananas, really, they are a vehicle—you can slip on them, ladies can’t eat them in the street because they are a phallic symbol; the Warhol and other Pop banana art aspect was a plus too. Personally I always love talking on a banana phone. I think art should be funny, and I think bananas are funny.”
From start to finish the entire project took less than three weeks. “Each image was a technical challenge; I had the time of my photo-nerd life, using infrared and litho films, learning how to tone prints… I had the most fun making was the Harold Edgerton style high-speed image—capturing a 1/30,000th of a second of the fruit exploding using a firecracker.” Both images are currently on view in EATLACMA.