Thomas Alleman’s urban landscapes convey the pulsating energy and sensual excitement of city life. With an eye for the visual rhythms and geometry of buildings, highways and parks, his photographs transform ordinary structures and events into emotionally charged images of modern life. “Hollywood Freeway,” the image featured on the invitation, is a perfect example. Through Alleman’s lens, the evening rush hour becomes an abstract in motion, shimmering like jeweled brocade. Alternating between reality and fantasy, his image is rich in emotional content.
In the photo, “110 Freeway,” he conjures up the sterile, yet splendid qualities of a dimly lit highway underpass just as a car races through a single, glorious shaft of sun-light. The picture brings to mind classical paintings and 19th century photographs of nature’s grandeur. By comparing antique idealism to the gritty reality of the modern road warrior, the work allows us to consider that majestic moments do exist even in our daily routines.
By carefully organizing the disparate objects inside the picture frame, Alleman creates surreal images that are wholly photographic – a reality that only a camera can see. The photo “Inglewood, Los Angeles,” for example, is a picture of a street level stop sign, an aircraft in flight and a distant, cloudy streak of vapor. When reduced to a two-dimensional photo, however, this image of a plane flying over head becomes strangely unfamiliar.
In “Silverlake,” we see Alleman’s subtle sense of humor at work. The picture features a well-pruned plant pressing itself up against a metal fence. The plant’s uncut center, which resembles a rose, is surrounded by the rhythmic geometry of the cut leaves and horizontal bars. The photo is at once a landscape detail, a graphic abstract as well as a reflection on the side effects of crowed city life.
Most of Alleman’s photographs feature a dark circular halo that surrounds the image and draws the eye into the picture’s unique reality. This non-digital effect is caused by the Holga camera he uses. “The Holga’s bizarre optics,” Alleman explains, “have given me access to a realm of richly textured suggestion, impression and allusion.”
Alleman’s influences include Henri Cartier-Bresson, Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand. A graduate of Michigan State and a successful commercial photographer, Alleman has received many prestigious awards over the years for his photojournalism and portraits. Among them, the 1995 California Newspaper Photographer of the Year Award, the 1996 Los Angeles Photographer of the Year, and the Mark Twain Award from the Associated Press 1997. Alleman lives in Los Angeles.