Les Etudes


These images are the results of an attempt to capture the fleeting, banal moments of existence as things of beauty, while not denying that they are in fact temporal and momentary–in a sense creating significance where none is readily noticed. Each photograph, captured by a modified camera, is more about instantaneous recognition, without focused reflection, than a conscious effort to dramatize a scene. Much of this work came to form by integrating a mode of constantly taking photographs into commonplace daily activities: commuting to work, grocery shopping, picking up the dry cleaning and such tasks where aesthetics rest low on the mental register. As I would perform these menial responsibilities, specifically when attention would falter, snap shots would be made to record slices of life and documents of that which is normally overlooked. This process was not so much about glorifying the banal as reflecting on the nature of subconscious visual perception. Observation was an artifact not the intention of the event.
The nature of the altered camera which I developed for this project afforded the ability to make pinhole type imagery with a 60th of a second shutter, thus allowing the possibility of fast shooting without heed of technical concerns. Alfred Steiglitz spoke in support of this mode of image making in his article "The Hand Camera–Its Present Importance," written in 1897. Advocation in this text was for the ability of the box-type camera to allow photographers to concentrate on the alignment of forms before the lens, rather than the complicated intricacies of complicated devices. Adopting this ethos for investigation of the fleeting moment made composition and color the crux of my concern in making the image, and contemplation took a more Romantic role.
Optical imperfection in this work provides for a denial of the nature of the photograph to be a perfect document of experience; the images are flawed, intangible and often a jumble of colored blotches devoid of recognizable forms. An artifact inherent in the pictorial elements is the consistent vignette surmounting the image. This treatment calls to mind Derrida and his writings on the frame–since the images are without a definable edge, the observer peers into a narrow, tunnel-like porthole on the world. Information escaping into the blackness of the surrounding void is isolated and solitary, becoming an article under surveillance; the perspective, that of an outsider looking in. With certain photographs there is a sense that the viewer is spying on the subject, and in the beauty an air of the sinister is revealed.
Balancing between several concepts–capturing images without contemplation, recognizing unassuming scenes as beautiful, relying solely on composition, photographing in a soft and out of focus manner and playing with the contrast of good (beauty) and evil (the predator-like gaze)–I began to regard these images as materialized forms of implacable, distant memory. Often there is an uncertainty with pictures in the mind; are they scenes from experience, or a film, or literature, under what context and connotation did they originate and how has time affected details. Questions which came form executing this body of work have initiated several projects devoted to different specific aspects of memory. It is for their relationship to subsequent projects that this body of images bears the title "Études," or studies.