Critique Style Requested: Initial Reaction

Please share your immediate response to the image before reading the photographer’s intent (obscured text below) or other comments. The photographer seeks a genuinely unbiased first impression.

Questions to guide your feedback

What, if anything, is your initial emotional reaction to the image? Though it is not landscape is this the type of image you might spend time with? Why or why not.

My intent was to control the designs lines, tones, shapes, and forms to express the tension between the left and right of the image, and suggest a natural form on the right.

Other Information

Please leave your feedback before viewing the blurred information below, once you have replied, click to reveal the text and see if your assessment aligns with the photographer. Remember, this if for their benefit to learn what your unbiased reaction is.

Image Description

Title: Tension, Uniroyal Building, Commerce, CA.

This would be considered “Urban Ruins” photography, still practiced today. The building was an icon on I-5 driving into LA from the south. Only a small portion of the wall was left and the lot had been turned into an outlet mall last I saw it in the early 90’s

Shot on a Toyo D54M 4X5 view camera in the mid 70’s. In those days, as now, I looked for accidental designs - natural or man made - that might provide images that asked questions of the viewer and the image maker.

This was a small portion of a long bank of windows letting north light into the interior of the abandoned Uniroyal tire production area. Most windows were uninteresting blistered paint, broken or obstructed by machinery.

Technical Details

Toyo D54M 4X5 view camera, Plus-X film, ASA/ISO 125, probably 1/15 @ f-8 due to heavy overcast ans being in a dark factory, processed normal.

Specific Feedback

Looking for general reaction including aesthetic, technical, emotional and conceptual.

1 Like

A very interesting image.

My first reaction was: “it reminds me of Vasarely’s Pamir (one of my all-time favourites which I have on my wall), and it’s remarkably strong in terms of lines and shapes for a photograph!”

The left shape on the right reminds me of a bird… The black shape on the left is more abstract, but boy is there tension! And what are those shapes? Where do they come from? Were they added in post? In any event, it is all very interesting!

I think I can make out a wall in the background and a floor with some pieces of peeled off paint, giving a sense of an abandoned, decrepit place - the sort of place that requires an “eye” to photograph.

The emotional impact may be a bit disturbing with the tension between the shapes and “colour duality” and with the underlying sense of a not-so-nice place, but for me the design element is very enjoyable and prevails over the emotional uneasiness that the image may convey.

My only thought, which is nothing but personal opinion and taste, is that the image could be made stronger by eliminating the context of a wall altogether and turning it into a purer abstract composition. But then we’d lose the dimension of time, which is also of interest…


I first read Vasarely as Vasari, author of “The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects.” Not a big difference - only 400 years or so.

What the view shows is two window panes cropped in camera. The windows are of translucent, not transparent glass that have been heavily painted white. The paint has separated from the window in places, drooped, cracked, blistered, and chipped. The building had probably 3/8 inch (~8 mm?) of dust on the floor and all horizontal surfaces. The dark specs on the peeling paint is a combination of the dust and bits of tire rubber from the manufacturing process. The dark mass is paint peeling back toward the camera.

I have always enjoyed his image, it ties me to people like Minor White, Edward Steichen and Paul Strand.

I will keep the base. It was never seen as an abstract by me, but rather an image showing and questioning the “thing” itself.

Since design and photographic history - as things to study if you want to be a photographer - almost completely disappeared with the advent of the smart phone and internet I didn’t expect too many offering feedback. I am glad you enjoyed it.

1 Like

Urban ruins is not a style of photography that I am familiar with. I found your explanation very enlightening and I totally get why you do not wish to take the image into a more pronounced abstract direction. Thank you for expanding my horizon!

I must say, coming back, and with the additional information, I like your image even more and I think you totally succeed in your stated aim:

“In those days, as now, I looked for accidental designs - natural or man made - that might provide images that asked questions of the viewer and the image maker.”

Accidental design - yes!

Questions of the viewer and the image maker - yes, and yes!

I was prompted to look up the building and was fascinated to discover its Assyrian-inspired architectural style and its history from this LA Times article:
Development to Give Life to Uniroyal Tombstone : Construction: The freeway Goliath, a former tire plant, is being resurrected as a $120-million complex. It will include office buildings and a hotel. - Los Angeles Times (latimes.com)

All around your image is both aesthetically and intellectually extremely stimulating, and a real treat!

On another note, I’d never heard of Giorgio Vasari before. Super interesting!

As for your last sentence… let’s just add that quantity is the opposite of quality, which is really quite the nightmare! Just terrifying, frankly :scream:

Thank you for the link to the article. I knew the background history of the building but didn’t know of the latest plans. I looked at the date on the article (1990) and decided to look at it on Google Earths Street View. 34° 0’19.18"N 118° 9’12.53"W

If you are not familiar with how to see the street level view let me know.

Here is a view of the main entrance in the mid 1970’s, “Selling Out the Assyrians, Uniroyal Building, Commerce, CA.”

BTW, beautiful website. Free diver and a camera! The classic racing ships were a plus.

1 Like

Thanks for the coordinates. It is nice to see the revamped building; looks great from the front. I must admit, I have a special liking for those Assyrian human-headed winged lions. Just love the style! So funny to read in the article that these were chosen to represent biblical Israel, only in late 1920’s Assyria and Israel were pretty much lumped in the same bag. Anyway, great style…! And the palm trees are certainly in their place!

The picture you posted is awesome. The lamassu seems to be intent on holding back the tide… there is great opposition and resistance in this image… that arrow is a key element… What an interesting project! Do you have any more images? (btw it seems that you were photographing when I was just crawling out of my cradle. I’m a total newbie compared to you :slight_smile: )

Thanks for taking the time to check my work. I appreciate it… those classic yachts are the only things I’d consider putting on the waves :wink:

Thanks for the new word, I did not know what they were called.

The yachts are fascinating from the standpoint of having worked in a boatyard just prior to art school and having spent too much time body surfing. I also read Richard Dana, “Two Years Before the Mast.” and Herman Melville’s, “Billy Budd,” and of course, “Moby Dick,” and about the whaler Essex among others.


1 Like

@Guy_Manning I didn’t know myself until your post prompted me to do some reading :sweat_smile:

Ah I would never have guessed… but, certainly, one can never spend too much time body surfing?..!

Thank you for the book references. “Moby Dick” is the only one I’ve read , a true masterpiece :blue_heart:, and I shall keep the others in mind. Great stuff, thanks!

Wow! What an interesting image. I especially like that white crack in the middle of the image. I would say that’s the center of focus for me. What’s my initial reaction? You’re going to laugh but I see a face in profile. A noble face.

For the life of me a face is the last thing I see. Can you outline it?

It’s the face of a barn owl.

Got it. The bird profile. I mis-understood your comment.