Archive for the 'Theory' Category


Of Mozart and Light

Ok.  New work.  Let’s talk.

This is the branched off version of my Edge of Vision series that I started sometime last year (I think!).  Still making these, and I’m awful at titles, even when I’ve finished a project, so for right now, I’m referring to the new work as Mozartova Light, because it is literally about this light in my flat on Mozartova (a street that once had the honor of having Mozart reside there!).  Anyway, here is one of my new favorites, in terms of the images:

I like that they are confused, in that the overlap of light and shade make understanding the exact space not straight forward.  They don’t let you sink into them.  Yet I’m drawn to these glowing things.  Who knows.

Now, let’s talk big picture, because this has been one of the things I really wanted to work on while here in Prague.  Photography is like breathing to me.  I’ve been doing it for 15 years seriously now, and I just “get it” as a medium – translating light into a two-dimensional images, how that transformation relates to space and time and sense of being.  Moving on – sound and any other medium, not so second-nature.  I love working with sound, listening to things and I think that eventually, working with sound will come more easily.  But right now, I have these sounds, these ideas of how sound will occupy and interact with a person, and sometimes it gets stuck.  I don’t quite have the language down to get things out the way that I want.  Frustrating.

But it’s coming.  The past week, I’ve really been working on my sound piece for my open studios.  I’m going to do a post on it once it’s finished.  And it really is coming out close to where I want it to be.  This translation of the light of the space, but layered in a different way than the images.  It literally is a translation of one of the photographs – this is the foundation of this idea of installation that I’m working on – digital is malleable, and information can slide from one medium to another, providing an alternate interpretation of something.

Let me simplify: I make a photograph.  I translate it into numbers.  I use those numbers to create MIDI notes in sound software.  I compose a sound piece using those notes as my foundation, plus some direct recordings of sound from the space where the photographs are taken.  E Viola!

And to add just another challenge this go round, I’m adding in video.  I’m about to go process this beast in a minute here, so let me wrap up.  This thing with light and sound has legs.  It could go somewhere.  Visually, it’s almost the other end of the spectrum from my silver skiagrams – the bright shiny white to the dark mysterious shadows.  But the bones underneath, those are the same.  Translation, interpretation of a space and how it resonates for me.  Because this is really what it’s all about.  What do I think, how do I feel in a space.  That’s at the heart of this.

Off to play with videos and sound!


I am a total Photo-Nerd

Alrighty.  For the first time ever on the blog, I’m going to get into what I “really” do.  Not that I don’t do any of the other things that I’ve rambled on about here for a few months now, just that in some ways, this is my baby.

Photograms.  Abstraction.  History.  Sheer, blessed nerd-fest.  Kinda the essence of how I think photographically.

Ok, let’s do this proper-like.  My ongoing body of work is titled Concealed at first at last I appear, which is a total geek reference, first to “Burning with Desire” written by Geoffrey Batchen (page 144 in my edition, for those of you who have already embraced their own inner photo-geek) but more importantly, it’s a reference to William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the great-grand-daddies of photography.  He had these words appear/disappear as a photogram in one of his early experiments using text on paper.  Friggin’ amazing.  The ability for something to be permanent and transient simultaneously.  Concrete and abstract.  Talbot was a genius and recognizing and accepting the duality that was present in photography from the get-go.  As Batchen says on page 91, “Photography was, for Talbot, the desire for an impossible conjunction of transience and fixity.”  First off, I just think that sentiment is beautiful – to desire the impossible, to accept that you will never be satisfied, that a fixed resolution will never happen.  And this is really where I realized where my own work was going.

as yet untitled new mural…..

I think that I am a bit of a twisted soul – I want to deliberately frustrate the viewer to a certain degree.  Not completely, just a little.  “You mean I’m making photograms, images that are a direct trace of light onto paper, no camera, no negative?  And yet you can’t tell what the blasted thing is of?!  What is going on here!?”

I love the idea that light itself can create a visual image via a chemical process.  That with a photogram, you have a direct one-to-one relationship with the “thing” that existed in reality.

And I love the fact that I can make an image today, without Photoshop, without using pixels, that is so abstract that many folks have asked me what these images are of (one of my favorite questions!)….

as yet untitled new mural…..

So, to sum up so far – large-scale photograms made with black and white fiber paper that are abstractions of space and time.  That’s one of my few one-liners that I can throw out when people ask me what I do…..

And I keep going…I started these last year, and in the past few weeks I’ve started cranking them out again, and I’ve gotten crazy excited about the results.  New space, new light, new patterns and images.  Any of you out there in cyber-world have any thoughts, criticisms, feedback or the like, feel free to drop me a message below, otherwise, thanks for reading this far 🙂

as yet untitled new mural diptych…..



This is always a hard thing.  How do you come up ideas for projects?  And not only that, this is one of the hardest things to teach.  I sometimes feel like I end up throwing the kitchen sink at students to see if anything will jog an idea or thought.

See, I’m prepping for a lecture for one of my classes, and I’ve decided to pull some images from fav photographers to introduce the different tracks/paths you can follow when creating images.  And it is so cool to spend the afternoon just looking at some of my favorite pics, but holy crow, how do you know what to include/exclude?!?  I could go for days.  I’d almost love to just have a class that was some sort of non-history based survey of photographic-based artists.  Following trends, seeing how one artist in one generation may inspire another.  For example, here’s one awesome cause/effect pairing that I love:

Bernd & Hilla Becher, Gas Tanks, 1983-92

And a bit more recently, Idris Khan, every…Bernd and Hilla Becher Spherical type Gasholders, 2004

It’s amazing to me to see how strongly history can influence how we think and create.  And I’m definitely one of those people who believe that you really have no excuse to be ignorant of what came before you, particularly in photography.  Images can be so powerful, and acknowledging and even situating your own contemporary work within the larger context of history is so important and gives greater depth to anything said today.  Just my two cents, as always.


More new work

I seem to still be engaged with these new minimalist images.  In my brain, there is a link between what I think about with regards to these distortions of space and light and my murals (my BIG project that is currently on hold).  One of the most fascinating aspects of photography for me right now is not so much the traditional nature of image-making, but rather the viewer’s perception of the actual photograph, distanced and removed from the intent of the artist.  How do we read photographs right now?  It has become second nature for us to process images since it is almost impossible for a person to go a day without seeing at least one – the internet, billboards, posters, advertising, tv.  So what do “traditional” photographs mean given this context?  That could be one way of approaching things.  I’ve obviously gone another.  What happens when you work with the photographic medium, but the resultant images don’t appear to be photographs?

I have a lot more to say on this topic, but think I have to wait for my caffeine to kick in to really write it out.  In the mean time, here are some more images from this new series….


Books, theory and banging your head against a wall

While drinking my coffee this morning, I decided to read about some of the goings-on in the art world.  Somehow, this caused my brain to remember that I never did get around to reading/buying Michael Fried’s most recent book, Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before.  So of course, I go to Amazon to see what’s what.  And I’m plunged yet again into the complete chaos that is photo-theory.

Now, I’m not going to be able to sum up my ongoing, wonderful yet frustrating experience with contemporary theory of photography, more specifically, what the heck is Photography, in one post.  I somehow sense that this will be a frequent thread here.  But it really struck me when I started reading the comments for Fried’s book and looking at some of the other theory books that Amazon suggested in one of my favorite features “Customers Who Bought This Also Bought,” that there is a constant battle between “art” photography and photography for the rest of “us.”  And in that second category, I  would include everything else – commercial, snapshot, the proliferation of mobile devise photography (a la the iPhone pics), or even just “beautiful” photographs.

I’m not saying that I buy into this distinction of art vs. the world when it comes to photography.  I’m in the camp that thinks that one of the greatest aspects to the entire medium of photography is its unclassifiableness (yes, I know that isn’t even close to a word).  I think that the fact that we actually have to debate what photography is, what it means, what our relationship to it is as a member of society and also our relationship to it as artists means that in and of itself, the medium can contain everything.  And that it will frequently contradict itself.  Which I think leaves more room for those of us who grapple with the medium to push and explore how we use this ability to render light into image to better understand the world around us, however we interpret and see.  In all, the more we can’t understand photography, the more it becomes a universal tool that will help us to learn to articulate our relationship to others.

But I’ve got to say, this is not the normally held position by photographers, by theorists or critics or historians (though there are many, and this is by no means my own idea that I developed – I read a crap-ton and got most of this from all the reading I did during grad school).  And reading the comments left on Amazon reminded me that people spend so much time arguing about how we should or should not talk about photography, and who’s “right,” that a lot of the time we don’t ever talk about the photographs themselves, which I think is a bummer.

It also made me think about the articles I’d read this week about the Senate, and how currently all the RepGs keep doing is prevent any kind of debate at all, which means not only are the Dems stymied in their agenda, but everyone is frozen in place, incapable of any progress at all, let alone any forward progress.  Which again, I think is a bummer.  I’d argue that there is a major difference between productive debate that allows for differences but engages with the heart of the matter and debate that is purely posturing, where the fundamental ideas are ignored in favor of proving that someone is right and the other person is wrong – always.  This sucks, in both politics and in art.

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