I have known many who could not purge the visual past from the present. In fact, many we know exhibit such cognitive intransigence, those moments and minutes which seem locked in their omnipresent consciousness, and the flickers of memory mixed with constructions of torment seem as real as the day they were hatched.
It is always a daunting, emotional exercise beginning a new project, and this one began in the spring of 2013 as I began to explore the human conception–and illusion–of memory. That’s a big project, and a complex one to boot, since memory is both tough to define as well as difficult to understand. In a nutshell, it boils down to this: What is reality, and what is perception? Or are they the same thing?
I hesitate to explain the philosophy behind the Recollections show, but here’s a hint: Alfred Schutz, the prominent social philosopher, notes that social experiences are constructed and shared by members of a culture. What those realities reveal presents a clue into the phenomena that underlie the very realities which they inspired.
The Recollections project is about memory: how it is formed, the illusions within, and its temporal existence. What are our memories?
The goal: To make us question the very nature of our own “reality.” In that reality, how sharp is our own version of our past, and of others’ pasts?
In September 2013—while I was in SoHo for a show opening—the Nebraska Arts Council notified me I had been awarded one of the eight shows the council grants in their gallery (the Fred Simon in Omaha’s Old Market). It is a great honor, and like the last time I opened a major show, I now will begin releasing images a few months before in order to give my online audience a sneak peak of the pieces. As a disclaimer, the digital images that will appear here are nothing like the physical pieces that will show in the Fred Simon Gallery, but to find out what those differences are, you’ll need to attend.
And thus, here is the first image in my new series, “Recollections.” If you’re interested in the meanings and themes in the images I’ve been exploring, just comment below, and we’ll start a conversation.
A cold night, well spent.
Since as early as 1772, the site of San Francisco de Asis Mission Church has captivated the human imagination. It is breathtaking, and that very reason is why every time I teach at Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, I take students to this very location. Oft-seen in images? Yes. Mystical in reality. Oh, my.
This time of year–actually, any time of year–I long for the Southwest.
Some prints just want to be difficult. This is one.
I made this image after four years of planning: a full moon at perigee and rising as close to the end of the blue hour as possible; an arch in Canyonlands National Park or Arches National Park which provided a miles-long and layered view toward the Lasal Mountains in the distance. Oh, and clear weather and a January night. No big deal, right? Except it happens only once every eight or nine years with all the elements in order.
And yet, everything came together on January 16, 2014. The moon. The stars. The snow. And the arch.
But such an image is very, very difficult to master, and I spent months–MONTHS–fighting with its substantial dynamic range and challenging colors. Why the problem? The arch is red, and to show its natural color, needs a white balance temperature of 7000 Kelvin at night. The stars? 4000 Kelvin. And that was just the start.
But nearly a year later and after a lost grand prize in a show (for a failed version of the print), I reached my breaking point. “Trash it, reshoot it, or figure it out,” said I.
So I trashed it and started over. And figured it out.
And so here is Moonrise, Mesa Arch, an edition of 50. I hope you find it inspiring, for I certainly did while shooting it.
This stand of aspens and I have had conversations for most of my life, literally. From before moments I remember, I have passed by, passed through, and passed among these trees, and I feel their breath; there is a communion between us.
It is a relationship beyond words, but within the capability of image.
On a cold November day, the humanity and chaos of these branches called to me as the last light of evening faded. Loneliness took me as I watched them, and as is typical for me, an image soon followed.