L.A. Photo Curator: Global Photography Awards - 'Where Photography & Philanthropy Meet' FIRST PLACE: RUSTY WESTON 'HESITATION'
HESITATION by Rusty Weston
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Review by curator SameSource:
"I follow a lot of photographers on Instagram, and I’m frequently puzzled when a few of them will post both black and white and color versions of a photo and ask people to weigh in on which one is better.  I think one of the most important lessons to learn as a photographer is to know why you are using color.  If you are going to shoot in color, light the shot for color and have the color be a fundamental element of the photograph. This lesson is clearly not lost on Rusty Weston, who offers us a saturated delight of color in Hesitation.  

This shot embodies the spirit of No Happy Accidents by giving us a work of art that is carefully considered in composition and design as well as with respect to technical execution.  Using the Sony/Zeiss collaboration FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS lens, Weston accomplishes the shot by pushing the lens to its maximum 35mm focal length and smallest aperture at f/22, necessitating a relatively high ISO of 2500 on the Sony body.  

Even that ISO still required a slow 1/8s shutter for proper exposure.  The result is an atypical use of this normally sharp lens, introducing softness for an overall warmth with a deep depth of field conducive to the lighting in the pool hall, pulling us into the scene.  At f/22 we certainly don’t have any chromatic aberration, so the colors are crisp even though the objects are not.  

At first glance the viewer may think the table lighting is coming through a lampshade, but that’s actually a screen close to the lens (either a wall panel or a cucoloris), softening the entire scene by creating the unusual duplicity of bokeh-esque shapes with a long depth of field and mid-short focal length.  

The overall effect places the viewer in a voyeuristic position of a live moment, further underscored with the slight motion blur from the model in the shot, due to the long exposure.  Like a great novel, a great photograph catches your attention but has extra layers to enjoy if you go back and give it deeper consideration, and that’s what Weston has accomplished here."

"The theme "No Happy Accidents" can be interpreted two ways; the subject is doing something defined, as well as the photographer in capturing the moment, is also very careful in the planning and execution of the resulting photographic image. The image by Weston plays these two elements off each other in a wonderful manner; the character of the pool player appears to be carefully determining her set-up as to maximize her break, while the photograph image has all of the elements of a carefully set-up stage. Each of which underlies that what results, either on the pool table or image capture has been pre-visualized by both; what eventually occurs will be very intentional.
Regretfully what I did find distracting was the use of the a screen that created the odd lighting patterns throughout the frame, especially on foreground table top, an element that is difficult to determine its source when contemplating the image and unsure that it helps with, if not distracts from, the intended narrative.
The staging is very subtle and nicely composed, the red highlights in the upper left corner leads the viewers eye to the woman's arm and down toward the balls on the table. Then the highlight on the edge of the foreground table draws the eye back up and then towards the main chapter; creating a nice circular rotation that keeps the viewer engaged."
Douglas Stockdale

SameSource asks Weston, "There are several planes of interest in your shot. Can you talk about how you composed it, and your thoughts on composition in general?"

Weston says, "Landscape aligns to my mode of shot composition. In my view, something in the image - usually a light source - must justify the wider perspective. Ideally, everything in the shot enhances the mood. In composing this shot, I wanted to frame sharp angles of the table combined with the harsh light of the billiards hall on blue felt. It was tempting to prop Eilyn (a fabulous Los Angeles-based model) on the pool table, but her moment of hesitation really punctuated the moment. The long exposure was intended to add a bit of softness, and mood, too."

SameSource says, "You embrace the strengths of color in your work. Is it part of the narrative, or just aesthetic?"

Weston says, "
Ideally, it’s both, in that the color accentuates the intrinsic character of the setting; aesthetically, I want my images to reflect the moment and not a classic look. I live in and often shoot in San Francisco’s Mission District, a colorful and somewhat gritty urban area. Color is often tricky to control, but I don’t tend to ‘see’ in black & white so it's my preference."

SameSource says, "How do you know when you have a setup ready to take the shot?

Weston says, "
I don’t shoot under truly controlled circumstances so I depend upon test shots to gain confidence in an exposure or composition. You try to spot what stands out, or looks flat, or to identify light leaks or other hazards. Time is a critical variable and shooting outdoors (especially with people) you must act fast when people, cars or other factors may muck up your shot."

Rusty Weston says about this series,  'Unrealized', "Night occupies a prominent space in the gray area between dreams and reality. But night is a tricky canvas. When our vision is obscured, we misperceive our surroundings, and things don’t always add up. The interplay of light and movement can distort our perception and our awareness. Yet from the barest of details our innate powers of pattern recognition enable us to stitch together a sense of place or even intuit an emotion. These images shot in San Francisco spotlight our urban anxieties — revealing false impressions that can happen in the blink of a shutter."

Rusty Weston is a fine arts photographer in San Francisco, California. A former journalist and content creator since his teens; in recent years, he’s pursued a dream to explore fine arts photography, transitioning from a macro style into more abstract explorations of time, reality and movement. A lifelong fan of abstract expressionism, his photography influences include Ernst Haas, Diane Arbus, and Saul Leiter.

Career Highlights -
Work from Rusty Weston's series Unrealized were included in juried competitions by Black Box Gallery in Portland, Oregon in 2018 and 2019, and The Photo Review, a publication, in 2018. In April 2019, four images from the series were featured in a group show at KG+, part of Kyotographie in Kyoto, Japan. In September, three images from his series Night Gamers will be included in Marking Time, the 20th Anniversary Exhibition by the Bay Area Photographers Collective.