Eian Kantor is a New York-based photographer whose work on conveying his subjects in their most natural form portrayed through several of his collection titled ‘Found sculptures’ and ‘(don’t)look down: 512 discarded cigarette boxes’. This collection of images is an exploration of the object not in their natural environment, and reflects the items thrown away by humanity, only to be photographed beautifully in their “trashed-state”. Kantor’s photos also communicate various messages, such as the common things one can find discarded, and the beauty that discarded items actually have.
The photo above is one belonging to his “(Don’t) look down” collection. 512 discarded cigarette boxes is a study of cigarette boxes that have been abandoned. This project was shot from March-June 2017 during lunch breaks or times Kantor felt that he needed to get away from looking at a computer screen. He was working from home at the time, so at least 80% of these images were taken in Park Slope and Gowanus, Brooklyn (with a select few in other Brooklyn neighborhoods and Manhattan). In the photo, a Malboro Filtered Cigarette box is portrayed in a grimy fashion. The image also consists of three layers, the foreground, midground, and background. In the foreground, we see an abstract shape in the top left, most likely another piece of trash that is covering the cigarette box. The midground mainly focuses on our focal aspect, the box, which is brightly colored, only ripped at the sides as if stepped on. We can also see various texts written on this box, mainly relating to cigarettes and their selling. The background is the most complicated of the three, with the only recognizable thing being a plastic cup cover lying underneath the cigarette box. The photo gives a crisp yet “dirty” feel, seeing as the colors and sharpness are very well edited, yet the photo itself shows a dirty piece of trash. I feel that this photo is one of his best, as its colors and dynamic shapes allow it to catch the viewer’s eye very quickly.
The main feature this photo presents is its sense of texture. In photography, texture refers to the visual quality of an object’s surface, revealed through variances in shape, tone, and color depth. Texture brings life and vibrance to images that would otherwise appear flat and uninspiring. Capturing high levels of detail is extremely important when attempting to capture lifelike textures making exposure choices critical. Underexpose and texture will be lost in shadow and blurring, overexpose, and it will be lost in blown highlights and lack of dynamic range. The texture of an object, as seen through the lens of a camera, can be heavily manipulated by the use of supplemental lighting; Changes in directional lighting alone can dramatically affect the visibility and depth of texture within an image. In this image, Kantor excellently angles his camera as not to block the sun’s natural lighting, which adds to the photo’s sense of texture. The photo setting also gives us a good understanding of the texture the box has, seeing as everyone has been near a trash can or pile; therefore, the specks of dirt on the box are realistic, making it easier for the audience to picture and feel.
It is not clear what camera or shutter speed Kantor uses, but the photo is cropped, allowing Kantor to place the box in the middle and make it the actual focal point. The collection is also called “(Don’t) look down,” meaning that Kantor took these photos at an angle that resembles the human eye looking down, which accounts for a unique part of his style. If I were to take inspiration from him, this is something I would play around with and explore how different angles tell different stories, seeing as any angle other than his would change his “(Don’t) look down” scheme.
Overall, this image has inspired me to take photos in a similar way to Kantor’s. For example, he was using the items we find right in front of us to take images. Kantor also uses multiples media, such as his phone and camera, to have a way to capture any “trash” he comes across. It is also important to note that Kantor does not use Black and White in any of his photography, which I do a lot, so I will try to accentuate the photo’s colors even more and focus on elements similar to this.