“We have been where you are going.”
I recited this phrase when I set to work on the “Horizon” photographs. It captures the blurriness between past and present and reminds me that whatever I wish for has been sought out by others before me.
The works in the “Horizon” series represent a collaboration with my dear friend and fellow artist Barbara Levine. Although we both collect vernacular photography, the way we respond to our pictures is different, and the dialogue between us grounds our work.
I am partial to the unremarkable. The lack of aesthetics reminds me how quickly the images we cherish can empty themselves of value. Barbara, on the other hand, recognizes the sublime hiding in plain sight. She sees how pictures of apparent limited value often overflow with tension and beauty. For the photographs we make together, we construct a fresh encounter with the past—and with photography itself—by reorganizing the horizon line and thereby confounding time.
I slice apart anonymous photos, placing them side by side, combining and recombining to create unexpected juxtapositions. When I discover connections and form relationships, the overwhelming anonymity of any one snapshot gives way to mystery. An inadvertent detail can demand our full attention. As the composition builds, I add sections of my own recent color photographs, connecting realism and abstraction to create a challenging immediacy.
For me, the photographic relationship between the pictorial and the abstract is one of the most fundamental understandings of place and time. “Place” is something we carry with us—a summation of our inner memories mapped onto the present landscape as we traverse it. The continuity of the land, though, has its own unbroken timeframe, and it is much longer and steadier than the interrupted, distracted time we are able to spend with it. While we look for the universal, we are always tripped up by our own presence.
We don’t know the people who populate our photographs, but we can embody their boredom, their anxiety, and the desert sun on the backs of their necks. They chose to capture their moments for unknowable reasons. Barbara and I have chosen to yoke them together to conjure future places and infinite possibilities. They have been where we are going.
If you enjoyed this article, you might like these previous features: All Lines and Diagonals, engaging photo-based collages based on several decades’ worth of artistic scraps; River and Sky, distorted images of Flint, Michigan as well as shots of “deep space” made with tainted materials; and Threads, landscapes modified with embroidered thread that meditate on our relationship with nature.