Michael Ernest Sweet’s new photography book, The Human Fragment, is largely shaped by a theory that the face is not the most telling feature of a complete stranger. (Submitted photo)
A self-taught photographer hailing from Martock is challenging preconceived notions of photography and beauty with a book aptly named The Human Fragment.
The new release is a 138-page photography book featuring images Michael Ernest Sweet captured while roaming the streets of New York, and beaches of Coney Island, for two years.
“I wanted to focus in on other little bits and pieces of people which are unique to them but do not involve the face,” the 1998 Windsor Regional High School grad said in a phone interview.
Sweet, who splits his time between Montreal and New York, says his work highlights characteristics of individuals that are, in his view, more telling than the face.
“In terms of the human condition, I hope people will take away the fact that everyone is very different and the reality of the world we live in is not necessarily what we see on TV or what we see in magazines.”
One of his favourite photos in The Human Fragment is of a man wearing dark-rimmed glasses and a t-shirt with an American flag on it. The catch, though, is that Sweet chose to cut the man off just below his eyeballs.
Some may argue the final result is an incomplete photo. Sweet begs to differ. He says the way a person dresses says a lot about that individual’s personality.
“These things all sort of are a part of who we are and I think in photography we’ve (become) too focused on the face.”
Sweet zeroed in on lips, stray arms, hair, torsos and even elbows — anything that caught his eye.
“At first glance some people will even say some of the photographs are grotesque but I don’t think so. I think it’s a real kind of beautiful and I hope people can see that in the work.”
The Human Fragment has been praised by world-renowned photographers Roger Ballen and Jay Maisel, who said: “Like a modern-day Weegee, Michael Ernest Sweet proves conclusively that photography is not quite yet a lost art. Utilizing composition, texture, and depth of field to capture his public and frankly open subjects, his work makes you long for a time when photographers were valued for their style and eye.”
Sweet, a teacher at an alternative high school in Montreal, was a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award and Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for contributions he has made to his country through the arts and his work as an educator.
The Human Fragment, published by Brooklyn Arts Press in New York City, is available through Amazon.com and signed copies can be purchased from www.brooklynartspress.com.