Sternfeld’s pictures can leave me strangely quiet, as after leaving a church service or a long meditation. The scale of his backdrops, the counter-pointing of urban against rural, of people against artefact, all have the effect of making one feel small and insignificant.
Perhaps best known for ‘American Prospects’, Joel Sternfeld // American Prospect ‘Stranger Passing’ and ‘Walking The High Line’, his images seem disarmingly simple and unified despite their epic scale and ambition. Perhaps this is partly achieved by his muted use of colour, integrating objects together rather than forcing them apart, a technique he learned from studying William Eggleston.
In “Architecture Museum” we see these hallmarks coming together: muted colours, the juxtaposition of scales, the ethereal quality to the framing.
As he himself said on the use of colour:
“The job of the color photographer is to provide some level of abstraction that can take the image out of the daily”.
And on framing:
“You take 35 degrees out of 360 degrees and call it a photo. No individual photo explains anything. That’s what makes photography such a wonderful and problematic medium”.
And here is why Sternfeld so interests me as a street photographer: his ability to control all the elements (none of his photographs were posed) and his ability to keep you guessing with only half the story – surely two crucial components to good street photography.