C a b i n e t o f
C u r o s i t i e s
Cabinet of Curosities
To some extent I have always approached photography as if I were a cultural anthropologist, using the camera as a tool to collect specimens and conduct research. Perhaps this notion was influenced but my rearing in a family of scientists. Or, perhaps it came from travelling to nearly all 50 of the United States, living in five, as well as in another country. Throughout these sojourns, I have of course been privy to many different ways of doing, saying and expressing the same ideas. This sameness with difference lies at the root of my curiosity and my work has evolved to include a great many observations.
Having entered the medium after a formal education in sculpture and drawing, photography was initially a means for me to create elements to use in mixed-media works. However, this quickly gave way to exploring in depth the world, while documenting all manner of social and cultural idiosyncrasies. In this gathering of imagery my photographs became centered around artifacts of human existence; objects, architecture, mankind's' interaction with nature, but rarely containing any people.
Just as an anthropologist takes position outside a culture, examining it from an arm's length, my gaze too works from the viewpoint of an outsider, a transplant, someone that has lived a transient existence, never for very long in any one place, but having resided in many different regions. The people-less quality of the images reveals my interest in yet detachment from the cultures I have explored.
Something that has always fascinated me are the many ways people present similar things to different audiences, like product packaging. Photographs from the series Soda Pop! demonstrate the cultural differences in commercial product branding. However, the collected artifacts are not preserved in their original state, but admired for their discarded nature. Like an element of Wabi-sabi the cans are beautiful in their decay additionally speaking to nature of waste inherent in Capitalist economies.
Works from History of Trees on the other hand, stem from my initial work with photography. In these images the camera's nature to observe cropped segments of a scene is exploited in repetitious exposures of trees' structures. Later in the studio, like a Romantic poet contemplating their experience in nature, these collages are reassembled from memory, drawing not merely upon the act of observation, but also my mental-emotional state at the time the photographs were taken.
On the long shelf of images and artifacts along with the adjoining wall are many individual works collectively titled Cabinet of Curiosities. These photographs represent several different bodies of work, some begun in the last few months and others dating back to my first negatives made. Examining the great variety one might think that the subject matter is all over the board. But, the fiber linking them together is the nature of inquiry, the wonderment of things, the commonality of forms geographically separate from one another, the beautiful, the obscure, the scientific, the mysterious and macabre, that is to say it is their variety that creates their harmony.
These are elements of culture and society collected in my many wanderings. Each of these photographs was made as an outsider looking in, not so much part of, but passing through different communities. These are my observations of the world through the camera – collected specimens of humanity arranged in my very own Cabinet of Curiosities.
© Gérard Lange | All rights reserved.