Sherwin Rivera Tibayan

[Stars and Stripes (72 of 83 cards from "The Histograms")]

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The Histograms, 2011

Media Variable, Dimensions Variable


This project is a translation of all the photographs in Robert Frank's seminal book from 1959, "The Americans." I cut out and digitally scanned the 83 iconic photographs from the book and derived their individual histogram data. I then generated graphs that corresponded to the unique distributions of tonal ranges in each image, from shadows on the left to midtones and highlights on the right.

I'm interested in the histogram as both a commonplace addition to our understanding of what a photograph might be—its changing ontology—and in its visual affinity to other contemporary diagnostic and visualization tools that rely on massive amounts of data like the charts and graphs of stock prices and political opinion polls. In the same way that I’ve come to respond to Frank’s implementation of photography as a tool of measurement—as a way of taking the temperature of a nation in the decade following WWII—I’m interested in discovering a pictorial strategy that suggests how we tend to describe ourselves now.

The resulting 5"x7" prints share the original titles and serve as a re-presentation of the work. The following images are a sampling of the innumerable potential relationships that may be constructed from this data set.

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