Tights by Tiffany
• James Welling, Untitled, 1998-2003

James Welling doesn’t take pictures; he manipulates light. For his Degrades series, he held a sheet of photographic paper under an enlarger, and moved a piece of cardboard over it to create subtle transitions of brightness. These photograms may look like the paintings of Mark Rothko, but their intent is entirely different. The beauty of Welling’s work lies in chance, not personal expression. He made Degrades in the dark, so the outcome was always a surprise.

Tights by Tiffany
• James Welling, Untitled, 199-2003

While Welling was working as a commercial photographer, he became interested in the gradient backgrounds used for still life or portrait photography. These backgrounds take center stage in Degrades, which deny any distinction between figure and background.