Alexander Gronsky

My tutor recommended I look at some of the work of Alexander Gronsky so here are my thoughts on a couple of his projects that really caught my eye.

© Alexander Gronsky (2009-12) 'Pastoral'
Fig. 1 © Alexander Gronsky – ‘Pastoral’ (2009-12)

In Alexander Gronsky’s Pastoral (2013) series’, the work is very much comprised of single images. These single images juxtapose nature with man-made, often high-rise buildings. There are often people in the frames too, lending not only a sense of scale in these ‘grand’ landscapes but a sense of how these two seemingly opposing forces (nature and man-made) interact. As a series for me they are just a collection of images with similar aesthetics and traits from which the viewer can infer what is or is not ‘pastoral’. I very much enjoyed viewing them; I notice Gronsky almost exclusively adopts a high viewpoint which makes the landscape seem all the more grander and allows the viewer to pick out details more easily. I also wonder whether some of the images are staged as incidental details or people seem unlikely or more than just happy coincidence. I feel there is also a plausible case that for a lot of the images Gronsky simply set up his camera at a suitable scene and waited.

In later works such as SCHEMA (2016), Gronsky starts to utilise images in tandem (by scrolling sideways on the website page) so the viewer can observe change between the two or more images. This work was of particular interest to me as I have started to approach showing change in a similar way. An important feature of any landscape in my opinion is the way it changes and this often isn’t obvious in a photograph. I appreciated the attention to detail in the painstaking framing of the scene Gronsky had made effort to recapture in the first 6 images for SCHEMA (2016). On the website page it looked like very similar framing. It showed off the changes, however subtle they were and invited the viewer to scan the images more closely, looking for change.

© Alexander Gronsky (2016) 'SCHEMA' I
Fig. 2 © Alexander Gronsky – ‘SCHEMA’ (2016)

In other images for SCHEMA (2016), Gronsky starts to frame the images less similarly and instead concentrates on playing with how people change within the pairs of images, with head-scratching results (in a good way). I for one couldn’t work out how the same people could appear travelling on certain paths in one still image and in the next one conflicting paths. This puzzlement on my part carried on until I saw that perhaps the images had been staged, with stooges used to make it possible. Another possibility is that Gronsky took one layer and moved it so that the person was in a different location within the composite.

© Alexander Gronsky (2016) 'SCHEMA' II
Fig. 3 © Alexander Gronsky – ‘SCHEMA’ (2016)

One more way Gronsky plays with change is finding buildings which are similarly structured, including the signs on the exterior of the buildings. He then frames them similarly but again, the differences are immediately noticeable; some of the signs are different or a path might be curved rather than straight. Either a lot of time has gone by when he rephotographs the buildings or he is digitally altering the contents of the image but sometimes the differences are quite unbelievable.

In two pairs (still within the same body of work, SCHEMA (2016)), Gronsky cleverly employs flash to show ‘night and day’ differences between pairs of images. Here it looked to me for a while that Gronsky had clearly used stooges at different times of the day. Then it occurred to me that he must have turned on his flash a moment later after taking the ‘day’ image and taken another one. Because the second image was taken with fill flash, it threw everything but the subject (the people) into darkness.

Lastly, it appears from some pairs of images as though Gronsky used two camera facing opposite directions and took each picture simultaneously (or near enough). However, the structures in the foreground or background look similar in each pair which has the effect of confusing the viewer.

There is a lot going on in SCHEMA (2016) so the viewer’s eye can’t really settle and I feel this is a deliberate manoeuvre by Gronsky to disable the viewing experience. One thing that does remain consistent is the playfulness of Gronsky’s approach during the series. Gronsky is toying with the idea of the decisive moment and using change (either from people within the frame, vantage point or lighting) to act as a conduit for illustrating his questioning of the decisive moment. I can see why my Body of Work tutor recommended Gronsky’s work to me. I think Gronsky is using similar concepts to how my body of work is developing but his style is more edgy and subversive in deconstructing the photographic image.


Fig. 1 Gronsky, A. (2009-12) Pastoral. [Photograph] At: (Accessed 02/01/2020).

Fig. 2 Gronsky, A. (2016) SCHEMA. [Photograph] At: (Accessed 02/01/2020).

Fig. 3 Gronsky, A. (2016) SCHEMA. [Photograph] At: (Accessed 02/01/2020).

Gronsky, A. (2008-11) Pastoral II. At: (Accessed 02/01/2020).

Gronsky, A. (2009-12) Pastoral I. At: (Accessed 02/01/2020).

Gronsky, A. (2016) SCHEMA. At: (Accessed 02/01/2020).


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