What is it?


Steven D. Foster (b. Piqua, Ohio 1945)


[12-2-99-28], 1999, from the series Garage




Gelatin silver print


Gelatin silver print

Credit line

Gifted 2019, Midwest Chapter of the Society for Photographic Education in honor of Steven D. Foster, recipient of the 2019 Honored Educator Award

About the Work


Steven D. Foster’s initial impetus to photograph garages came from music. Foster was moved by the piano preludes and etudes of Bach, Chopin, and Shostakovich. He wanted to make photographs that had the same simple, yet satisfying, appeal as these miniature compositions. Uncomplicated but endlessly varied, garages were the perfect subject for a visual typology such as the pioneering examples of industrial structures by the German photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher in the mid-twentieth century.

The series Garage is inspired by the music of American composer Morton Feldman (1926–1987), in particular the sparse masterwork for solo piano Triadic Memories (1981). Listening exclusively to Feldman’s music and studying his writings on music, Foster began to view his own photography through Feldman’s conceptual lens. Just as Feldman played with the suspension of sound in space, allowing tones to reverberate and draw the listener deeper inside until the sounds dissolve into silence, Foster saw his garage photographs as luminous images set against a nocturnal sky. By digitally manipulating the image, Foster effaced the backgrounds and replaced them with utter blackness—the visual counterpart to silence.

Foster became so smitten with the garage motif that he found himself uninterested in photographing anything else. He fantasized that viewing an exhibition of the photographs would simulate the experience of walking down an alley of garages on a pitch-black night.

[12-2-99-28] is a transitional work. Foster would continue his digital interventions by replicating individual garages to form densely patterned tapestries that emphasize the essential visual qualities of the garages.