This work is a personal exploration of the work of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. Guadí was the principal practitioner of a architectural period known as Modernisme. Hennessy’s goal is not to catalog this work but to react to it and enjoy it.
Gaudí, who died almost 100 years ago, worked in Catalonia, mostly in Barcelona. Modernisme largely died with him except for a large church which is not yet finished. Many did not mourn Modernisme; others pine for it. Millions visit Barcelona just to see it.
Gaudí’s work is very organic with many obvious references to bones, plants etc. Those who lived in his houses (some still do) must need an infusion of Dramamine to stay upright. The floors are the only things remotely in a plane. Gaudí’s work is bizarre or whimsical or gaudy or eccentric or genius. You pick.
Photographing his work is difficult because it is hard know where to start and near impossible to stop. Technically, the density of people at these sites tends to be an obstacle as well, mainly because tripods are not allowed.
This exhibit showcases three buildings in Barcelona, two houses(Casa Batlló and Casa Milà) and one church (Sagrada Familia).
Some of these images are sets made to explore a facet of Gaudí’s work, e.g., his (and John’s) fondness for catenary arches. The 630-foot stainless-steel St. Louis Gateway Arch is a catenary arch. Gaudí’s catenary arches are one thin brick thick and sometimes look like spider webs.
John Hennessy states his goal is to reduce a subject to its essence, or make a new thing of it. Correctly or completely showing a man-made object or a scene is not as interesting to him as using a subject’s structure, texture and space to emphasize one or two crucial elements.
While in Europe in the 1960’s he first became interested in photography. Starting with 35mm, Tri-X and street photography, but working though to larger formats over time and now to digital tools and more static subjects.
John obtained a BA in Fine Art from the University of New Mexico; photography was his principal medium. He studied under Beaumont Newhall, Ray K. Metzker, Annie Nogle, and Van Daren Coke among others. Over the years, he has taken workshops with photographers Huntington Witherill, John Sexton, Ray McSaveney, Morley Baer, Bruce Barnbaum, Stu Levy, Howard Bond, Christopher Burkett, Gordon Hutchings and others. Most are still with us, some not.
He has used about every size and shape of camera and type of film at one time or another. Until about fifteen years ago he used 4x5 equipment, mainly with black and white film developed in Gordon’s pyrogallol. Then shifting slowly into color sheet film and for years now an entirely digital process.
Years ago, John sold his consultancy leaving more time for family—wife, two sons and two granddaughters—as well as time for photography.
His work is found in many private collections—often sold to other photographers which he finds extra encouraging. Trading photographs with talented friends is even better. There have been maybe six shows in galleries over the years and some images published in curated magazines. The photographs are for the photographer, but if others enjoy them as well, then that adds to the experience.