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The Long View Art of medieval masters and the Dutch Golden Age resonates in Grillo’s contemporary photography by Kristen Andresen
79 Maple Street 06-05

Michael Grillo 79 Maple Street, 2005. For Michael Grillo, photography has become a way to more fully understand the choices painters made. For instance, it’s one thing to read about Vermeer’s use of a camera obscura — a filmless camera that provides perspectives beyond what the eye can see. It’s another to get behind the camera and imagine what lenses the painter used — and, more important, why.

There are the street scenes, shot in black and white in Italy. A couple locked in an embrace. A busker playing an accordion. A pair of businessmen on a train, smiling at the camera.

There are the domestic scenes, shot in color in Maine. Wife in robe, early morning, standing in the backyard. Young sons, one at the com­puter, the other surrounded by toys, a blur of motion in the living room. A family camping trip, dinner at sunset, ocean in the background.

And then there are the scenes that got away. The moments when the camera isn’t immediately handy. The moments when everything is almost — but not quite — perfect. For Michael Grillo, a photographer and University of Maine associate professor of art history, those are the scenes that haunt him.

“The images are at first resident in your head and you go out and make them happen,” says Grillo, whose photography informs and is informed by his research. “You’re

trailing something specific. I have images in my mind that I’m still waiting to make happen. I know they’re out there.”

Often, the images in his mind are inspired by significant works from art history — a landscape by Vermeer, a portrait by de Hooch, a fresco by Giotto. He thinks deeply about the composition of his photogra

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Emmanuel de Witte Interior with a woman at the virginal, 1665–1670 Courtesy Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

phs and the interactive power of imagery. To Grillo, photography is a means of conversation, a narrative shaped by artist and viewer, a social pursuit.

“How do images help us negotiate the world and, in turn, shape how we envision it?” Grillo asks. “Photography has given me insights into the structure of images. How do images communicate? What’s the role of images in creating meaning? That’s what I write about.”





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Summer 2012

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