On the slow

Russell Dudley

Russell Dudley photographs Lake Tahoe in atypical fashion in “North Shore.”

Russell Dudley photographs Lake Tahoe in atypical fashion in “North Shore.”

Photo By Russell Dudley

Imagine yourself as a point, your body compacted, vanished, massless. Unconstrained by boundaries of space and time, as a point you dart back and forth from place to place, capturing images wherever you happen to freeze. Russell Dudley imagines himself, his eye as a photographer, as that point. Less concerned with what his pictures are of than what they feel of, Dudley sees his works as “emotive field paintings.”

For the next three months Dudley’s work hangs in Bec’s Frozen Custard on Mount Rose Street. An unusual space to view contemporary artwork, the show is limited to the one empty wall in the shop. Three photographs, a large ultrachrome print flanked by two smaller ones, fill the space. Frank Hill, who has been organizing the work at Bec’s, is happy to have the opportunity to show artwork in a place where it would not normally be seen.

“Work should be shown in as many spaces as possible because galleries and museums tend to intimidate people,” Hill says.

"[Dudley] can take a picture of a stump, a can, a hand, an ocean, and all of a sudden you can just see his look.”

Dudley’s photographs are of dissimilar subjects and objects, but all have a similarly disjointed, slightly off-time feel, or as Dudley terms it, a “slow-speed coefficient.”

The photos that hang in Bec’s are part of a larger series of Dudley’s work. Photographs seem slightly blurry but often remain perfectly in focus. Colors seem slightly muted but are often perfectly bright. Perhaps it is just the slowness of the images—the “slow-speed coefficient.”

The three photographs in Bec’s are strikingly divergent. The first captures an airplane and a UFO against a tilted horizon and deep blue sky. The UFO is a quirky little object, difficult to identify; it’s actually made from pushpins, floating into frame on a barely discernable string. Dudley says he was trying to make something “simplistic, orchestrated, strange.”

The second photograph was born from the fact that Dudley is a professor at Sierra Nevada College. He often makes the drive from Reno to Incline Village, watching Lake Tahoe in his rear view mirror. He became determined to take a picture of the lake, a challenge considering the countless number of Tahoe photos. Dudley’s image is darker, with more grays and browns in the water than the typical postcard. The blues are pushed up to a small line of mountains and sky at the top of the picture. The majority of the image is intensely close, gray water. The photo has a familiarity, immediately recognizable as Lake Tahoe, but it also has the quiet slowness of all of Dudley’s photographs.

The third print is a straightforward shot of monkey bars, with less play on composition. The monkey bars sit dead center, a simple black cage or geometrical drawing against a green playground. Dudley took a picture of the monkey bars because they reminded him of minimalist installation artist Sol Lewitt.

“It seems like a Sol Lewitt, but in Lewitt’s you never get the background,” Dudley says. “With this you get all this great background.”

When he speaks, Dudley often ends his sentences with a question mark. Not as if he is unsure of himself or needs his listener’s affirmation, but more to imply that his answers hold much more than the boundaries of language can contain. Dudley’s work possesses this same quality—the same subtle question mark at the end of a phrase, an implication of depth behind apparent simplicity.