Luca. Hold. Sewanee, TN. 2009
9.5 x 7.5 inch, platinum-palladium print on 100% cellulose vellum
As a part of the photographic moment, heavy in all its stillness, a gaze becomes perplexing and multifarious. It is simultaneously vital and engaging, static and unresponsive, transparent and silent. It is of the moment but, as the photograph is looked at, gazing at it becomes timeless.
A gaze is ancient in its ability to persist. The person in the photograph is both fully present and fully absent, as is the viewer.
I am interested in the relationship between absence and presence, and particularly the way it manifests in the visual space.
I am especially interested in those moments when the particulars of what is most familiar and intimate begin to embody what is unfamiliar, universal, and even sublime (as opposed to beautiful) – giving form to the vacuous, or the absent. Itself the embodiment of absence, space is both occupied and the occupier. Space is both a becoming and an effacing, constantly transiting across sensory membranes. Space is always itself and yet not itself. Another way of considering this is to think of isomers, which are molecules that have identical components but differ in the arrangement of their atoms, and with this, have different properties, and different ways of engaging with the world.
Isomers are the same and not the same (see Roald Hoffman, ‘The Same and Not the Same’). Considered metaphorically, this seems relevant to all of the most essential aspects of living and experience. It is, for me, a fundamental philosophical issue.
So, while the photographs in ‘Reflectance’ come from a personal realm, there are other more global interests at play.
The kouroi sculptures were photographed less for their historic worth and more for the profound personal effect they have on me. Akin to the symmetrical relationship between isomers, the kouroi reflect but extend the scope of the images of my wife and son.
Conversely, these family portraits particularize the photographs of the kouroi. One set effaces the other, together arriving at zero, at space.
And yet, each is highly charged and far from neutral. The kouroi, while faceless, are crowned by space and light. Their bodies are heavily marked by time and glow in the way only Parian marble can. They present an ephemeral ‘absence’ to the persistent ‘presence’ of the gaze.
The person looking out of the photograph, and the photographer, and you the viewer, and the kouroi, are all the same, and not the same.
I am fascinated by departure, by transition, by the moment when light passes into a prism and bends.
I intend for the arrangement of these photographs, facing each other as they do, to form such a prism.
The photographs reflect each other, just as the internal surfaces of certain prisms do.
And just as with a prism, the substance of what is being reflected and refracted comes from zones of other densities.
This substance passes through, remaining the same collectively, but shifted, transformed, arrayed —and so, not the same.
Reflected, but as against a shimmering horizon.
This collection could not have come about had it not been for the guidance, patience and help of Luca and Rachel Malde, the Schenck-Izard family, Helen Bateman, and Mike Ware. Thank you.
All the images were originated with photographic film (8×10 and 11×14 inch formats, and 6×6 cm format that was digitally enlarged to 13×13 inch film) and printed on hand-sensitized, 100% cellulose translucent paper. The sensitizer renders an image composed of pure platinum and palladium. The platinum-palladium printing process was invented and refined during the 19th Century and substantially modernized by Dr. Mike J Ware and myself during the early 1980s. This contemporary method is referred to as the Ammonium-based printing-out platinum-palladium process, and is one of the various approaches being currently used by printers.
The website images were all derived from the actual platinum-palladium prints, and have only been manipulated to remove dust and other scanning anomalies and to equalize slight variations in color that are the result of scanning software.
As installed in the University Gallery, Sewanee, TN, the exhibition presented the work on two opposing walls. All the Kouroi images were on one wall, and faced the portraits of Rachel and Luca Malde on the other.