When experiencing something in extremes, it can be a challenge to see what is going on. A line, a shadow, an idea. In it’s extreme state, its essence might be revealed.
Why light and dark? Ever walked out of a dark theater into broad daylight? From a bright parking lot into a dark eye examination room? From an ear blistering rock concert into your near silent car? Your senses are either overwhelmed by… *sensing*, or by the lack of. We’ve all experienced this. This sensory wall of opposing extremes. You hit that wall from light to dark, (or dark to light), you feel blinded, struggling to make sense of form. As your senses gradually adapt, your brain begins to decipher the content. Generally speaking, photographers have historically put our technical prowess into accomplishing a “correct” exposure (cue in, eye roll). Ansel Adams and his development of the Zone System is a prime example of this. With The Political Landscape I wanted to apply this approach, but from a different perspective. The actual viewing of the image is visceral and demanding experience. Visceral and demanding, not by content, but by the nature of the image and sequencing. Dark image followed by light image, followed by dark, light, and so on. Absence followed by abundance of light. Constantly challenging the senses to adapt and see the essential from the minimal. Forcing your brain to see when feeling blinded by light, or dark. A divisive experience… like politics. Experiencing something so extreme, it blinds. The only way to wrap our heads around the political idea is to actively force our minds to *listen* to the extreme and then maybe make some sense of it. Not necessarily agree, but at least listen and experience a sliver of empathy.
On another level, these images were inspired by drawing. More specifically, east Asian sumi-e ink drawings. The practice of bringing an image down to its bare essentials in the fewest brushstrokes possible. Sometimes, just a single brushstroke. Although sumi-e ink drawing and photography come from absolute opposite beginnings. With an ink drawing, one begins with a blank substrate. With a photograph, the real world, with infinite detail. With that in mind, my process was driven by eliminating as much detail as possible by pushing the image to an extreme “high key” or “low key” range. Add to that (or more accurately, subtract), I’ve gone black and white. So, I’ve eliminated all saturation/hue and mid tones. I’m left with just hints of what the original scene. Those hints offer a shift in perspective, shining light on details that would normally be missed or diluted by the full spectrum of information.