Photography involves a radical re-framing of reality. Meaning is often determined as much as by what is “cut” from the framing of the images as it is by those elements that are revealed in detail. I have largely excluded human figures, although humanity is alluded to through cultural icons and remnants. Consequently the focus is on what humans leave behind rather than the fleeting aspects of contemporary life. In my work, there is always an added dimension beyond concrete reality. Images and their titles do not document reality but are landscapes populated by a “forest of symbols.” The symbolic content is meant to be archetypal—presenting some archaic concern embedded in the human psyche. The metaphorical references are repeated, contrasted, and amplified from image to image giving them an allegorical or narrative structure. Some of the symbol/symbolic concept pairs are: water/the unconscious, river/the passage of time; island/sanctuary, refuge; ruin/the neglected past; and light/knowledge, purity.
The impulse to escape from fear and loss toward a safe place is the focus of the images in the portfolio, “Sanctuary.” This could be a mountaintop (Last Refuge—1244) or an island (Highlander Retreat). Alternatively, sanctuary could be a primeval Eden (Pas de Deux). In the portfolio “Sitting Quietly, Doing Nothing,” flowers are personified as metaphors for emotions and the human condition. The funerary objects from Mt. Koya, Japan (in the portfolio “A Spirit’s Journey in Japan”) offer dramatic evidence of the cultural and personal attitudes toward human life and death. Likewise, in the portfolio “Portraits of the Black Madonna—the Hidden Stream,” the icons represent a profound longing for something lost from the “collective unconscious.”
I have been profoundly influenced by The Keepers of Light, by William Crawford, which can be summarized as an investigation of how photographic meaning is determined by choice of camera format and lens, photographic paper and development, and the “framing” of the image. The choice of alternative processes imposes a “look” to the photographs, regardless of the subject matter. These processes usually require large-format and/or enlarged negatives. My antique Deardorff 8×10 field camera forces me to see the world from a static, constricted viewpoint. It is heavy! In addition, I have only about 12 negatives with me, so I must carefully choose my “cut” of reality. The result is a formally composed and exquisitely detailed image.
Conversely, when circumstances and subjects require a small format, I generally use a special purpose 35mm high-speed color film (discontinued Agfa 1000) which gives uniquely sharp and identifiable cyan, yellow, and magenta granules. This presents the world as composed of elemental particles when viewed closely, but as identifiable objects when viewed at a distance. Of course, I shoot thousands of 34mm images, and then “select” my reality.
Click the titles below to view individual works