Last week I tried to explain – in the bombastic style of Romanticism – the enthralling experience of trying to photograph a scene that goes well beyond one’s ability to capture that experience in gargoyles ascend a cathedral. This week is all about post. The equally daunting task of figuring out how to represent that memory with a set of images. The scene remembered changes over time from the direct experience. Now these cliffs seem taller than could ever be captured in any adequate way. Thus, the diptych format seemed to address this perceived impossibility with the cut of the line between the two juxtaposed images. A rift of artifice acknowledges what cannot be overcome by a mere image compared to the experience. The disjointedness left in place as an acknowledgement of a medium’s limits.
Strange thing is last week I lost a family member. My uncle had spent his life on ships. He lived on oceans. When I look upon these images after his passing, they have turned into some kind of funerary objects. A solemnity has seeped into the crevices. A mournful song creaks out of the waves. The cut of the line between the two images severs memory from experience and omits the forgotten of what was in between. So I dedicate this post to him, my sea dog. And since it was his wish to not have any service I will not end this with an image of him for that seems far too personal for his stoic spirit. Rather, I will end this post with something I used to collect, a cabinet card. A photo from the 19th century that I found rummaging at a flea market once has always stuck with me. An image of a bouquet of funerary flowers arranged in the shape of an anchor. It always made me wonder about the fate of the seaman it was intended for. It strikes me as the most tender of objects for such a rough calling. And now it has found its home for me as an offering to the one I’ve lost.
RIP Bob, here is a Welsh traditional verse from the 17th century for you:
The End of the Day With the night the house grows dark, with the night comes candle light, with the night comes the end of play, and with the night comes Daddy home.
Dedicated to everyone who has passed away from COVID-19. Rest in Peace.
New York is a lotus flower with giant petals. If the petals were put on the floor, their terrain is so immense that each one would cover a small town. Between the petals, pathways weave in and out of this labyrinth. Go in one direction and the petals unfold before you as they fold back behind you. Turn around and the folded unfold again. The journey on one side of the lotus becomes a journey on the other.
New York is a lotus flower with infinite pathways. Step on the path and look at the petals loom overhead. From any standpoint, the petals blend into transitory formations that embody the supreme randomness out of which came its design. See how the petals twist and turn together into a vertiginous dance. If you whirl clockwise to find your way, the whole flower turns counter-clockwise. Take a rest and the place where you stood has already shifted away from where you thought you were but a minute ago.
New York is a lotus flower of bright light. Every petal has a thousand pores radiating. Every being that lives there bathes in its glory at one time or another. Its hive energy buzzes anyone who steps on its pathways and delivers them toward the light they seek. It is a flower of knowledge and know-how. It’s a beacon to the world. It’s a place of heartbreaking beauty and all the dimensions of tragedy, too. And whenever it seems to die it is reborn. And it gains even more petals which in turn create a seemingly infinite array of new pathways to explore.
The Process: About a year and a half ago I found out that I had an opportunity to studio-sit in Manhattan (otherwise there’s no way I could afford it!) for two weeks. I treated it as an artist’s residency but on my own dime. To prepare, I poured over as many photographs of New York City from great photographers like Edward Steichen, Helen Levitt, Joel Meyerowitz, Paul Strand, Berenice Abbott, and countless more to study how NY was depicted/experienced by others. Yearning to contribute some way of looking that I hadn’t come across yet embracing all that I have seen. I spent hours thinking of my previous experiences there and how the city felt to me as well. The dominant theme was that of a labyrinth but I was unsure of how to convey that feeling. By the time I arrived in NYC, I had my notebook of ideas on what to try, but after many days, I felt like it wasn’t working. When I could sleep, though, I entered half-dream states where I was ceaselessly wandering through the outer terrain internalized. And then, it came to me. The simplest of ideas. I tapped into this feeling of the buildings unfolding before me like a thousand petals of immense scale. Yet also scattered in my mind’s eye these petals came from all over town. Then, this boiled down photographically to two images juxtaposed together in a diptych. Two images of these buildings from different areas had to be brought next to each other! And once I got to develop them, some blended together, some grated against their companion, and others twisted and turned into uncanny forms from simply placing them side by side in an embrace of the fundamental experience of randomness. After a year of developing them, this is what you see now.
Where to purchase: They are for sale at www.society6.com/oneroundcorner. There are prints and framed prints available (the largest size will be the best), in addition to some having small items available like pillows, clocks, iPhone cases, and such.
Favorite? Of course, I’m proud of all of them but if I had to pick a personal favorite, it’s New York is a Lotus Flower #4 because it references zip paintings by the New Yorker Barnett Newman and I always think of them when I go to New York since I saw them in person for the first time at the MOMA many years ago. If you have a favorite, I’d love to hear about it! Thank you and enjoy!