From the Ground Up
In Lewis Carol’s Through the Looking Glass, Alice finds a world that is familiar, and yet not quite right. After reading a poem in the looking-glass world, she notes: “Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas -- only I don't exactly know what they are!” Seeing something we don’t quite understand gets us thinking.
People stare as I kneel in puddles with a tripod-mounted camera pointing at the ground. I am staring too, but at the shapes and tones and textures in my looking-glass world. This world is in a city. That’s where I live. It’s a place in which almost every square inch has been utilized for some human purpose. A landscape made from the earth, its ingredients separated and reconfigured to form a new urban world. In From the Ground Up I use reflections to explore this world, looking down to see what’s up.
When I stare at puddles I find myself gazing at skyscrapers. They are improbable structures. A fraction of a mile high, they deposit an unthinkable weight on a small plot of land. When the wind blows, they are subjected to house-crushing forces. Why don’t they topple over? In a city I walk in their shadows and sleep in their heights. To do this, I must suspend disbelief. That’s how I deal with things I don’t quite understand. I suspend disbelief.
In the shadow of the city I use long exposures to permit small apertures and enough depth of field to allow both the surface texture and the distant reflection to be in focus. I have chosen to create images in black and white. I think this enhances their dream-like quality. Digital is a wonderful media for black and white photography. There is tremendous freedom with the manipulation of light curves and the mapping from color to tones in the digital darkroom, and I use this to give emphasis to foreground textures, and to create the mood I want to convey.
Elliott Erwitt once said of photography: "I've found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them."