Our relation to “things” is rich and complex. We know things by their physical properties, which we describe. We know them by their instrumental value, which we measure. But beyond that, we have a third way of knowing them, affectively, as possessing subjective meaning. We generally do this collectively, participating in a culturally sanctioned reading of meaning, as with sacred objects, fashion, and currency. We also do it individually, seeing an object as having “sentimental” value to us personally.
We tend to experience meaning as something we bring to things from outside, applying reason, imagination, spirit, or dogma. What I’m looking for in my photo work is the possibility that things possess in themselves a power to communicate, a language that is elusive, ambiguous, indefinable, untranslatable, yet demonstrably resonant.
To pick up this language, I walk with digital cameras making a point of paying attention to visual events normally considered unworthy of notice – things conventionally “invisible” in the sense of being outside meaning, or to which only base meaning is attached.
The series entitled -scapes and another I’ve called Cryptology focus on fragments of particular contexts – urban landscapes in the first, cemeteries in the second. Both are projects of “seeing” in a new way, not to document or comment or philosophize, simply to report back how much there really is to notice out there, to listen to. In the same spirit is the series Traces - a valentine to the venue of my first exhibition in Italy, the Castello di Bianello in the province of Emilia-Romagna.
More often I try to create a resonance box to register the communicative power of things. To this end I pair images, or combine images with text.
Dipticos / Diptychs examines the effects of combining abstract images with photos of manikins. The voices of the two interact, animating the manikins, evoking the possibility of a backstory if the viewer is inclined to speculate.
The series Conversations pairs images that on the surface have no apparent reason to be together, yet in proximity connect. Decoding is one way of participating, but allowing the connection to effloresce is better.
In Theaters Near You pairs enigmatic images of the material world with captions so terse and elusive as to be hermetic. Framed by the title of this series, and triggered by the captions, the “things” photographed invite conjuring about the “film” stories from which these photos could be still shots.
Movie I is a series of ten mini-stories, each of which describes in two or three sentences a concrete event in the life of a different member of my family accompanied by six abstract photos “commenting” on the text. The aim is to achieve a reverberation between imagery and text that pushes meaning beyond the orbit of one small sample of individual lives.
My Name Is Sophie brings together simple sentences of text and abstract images to venture into the life experience of a French woman of the early 19th century who pursued mathematics against all odds. The few known facts of her life are incorporated, but the emphasis of both text and photos is on her interior life.
For I, Matilda / Io, Matilde, I composed a speaking voice for an 11th century Italian countess dictating her autobiography at the end of her life. The images (most of them photographed in her historical domains in Italy) are non-representational and abstract, chosen for their potential to magnify the relevance of her story to other places and times.
The Rabbi of Bacharach is a photographic interpretation of Heinrich Heine’s fragmentary novel of the same name documenting the experience of Jews in medieval Germany. I selected passages from a later English translation and combined them with abstract photographs reflecting on the implications of Heine’s narrative.