The sublime response is described as an agreeable kind of terror related to awe and often encountered in nature. Using visual elements that provoke the sublime, I wish to connect very contemporary issues related to climate change and potential global collapse. This is new work in progress, but my attempt is making images that pose questions about the experience of the sublime and the global dangers of human action and inaction. Only recently has my investigation of sublime emotions in the natural world turned toward the notion of climate change catastrophes. Blending 17th and 18th century concepts of the sublime with 21st century environmental issues, there seems a new opportunity to explore landscape to evoke aesthetic and emotional responses related to the specific issues humans have created. Burke proposes, “experiencing otherwise terrifying phenomena from a position of safety can elicit ‘a sort of delightful horror, a sort of tranquility tinged with terror; which as it belongs to self-preservation, is one of the strongest of all passions.’”* Burke’s assertions were true in his day, but never more than now when our tranquility and self-preservation in the face of potential collapse create another kind of horror.
* Edmund Burke – from A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful
While walking, we see and are seen, we engage ourselves with our neighborhoods, pause to notice bits of the world we may otherwise not, and we experience the world at the human pace. These images were made amidst the communities and social rituals of others in an attempt to embrace a slower pace and a more communal spirit. As a Midwestern American, I too often travel by car, missing so much as I go. These images are made during rare and distant opportunities to immerse myself in the minutia of my surroundings, to see and be seen, and to navigate the world at a more appreciative pace. I photograph in Italian and Spanish historic town centers where walking is the primary mode of transportation and daily visual experience and expression is everywhere emphasized. Through the context and tradition of strolling through historic streets, I observe my global contemporaries and record visual fragments of our combined cultures.
In praise of uncertainty as a higher state of being, I photograph neighborhood teens and pre-teens who are willing to submit to my camera. They pose and engage in familiar studies in vulnerability, patience, boredom, trust, and hope. Often, we know one another only slightly, but enough curiosity exists on both sides to allow for a few sheets of film to be exposed. The intervals of stillness, the newly acquired self-awareness, and our mutual understanding of the power of photographs all enhance/inhibit the photographic event as I pursue the moment of knowing exchange between photographer, subject, and viewer. Traces of fragility, adaptability, uncertainty, and promise sometimes leak into the photograph during that self-reflexive moment and give evidence of what was and what might become.
My search for poetic associations between place and experience is facilitated through my fascination with the photographic object. A photograph as image, memento, and referent to absence is physically touched by the past yet allows for a new experience through the photographic object. Photographs as tangible evidence/residue from events, experiences, relationships, and places offer me the ability to associate the specifics of the past with image/objects. That layering of characteristics inherent in the photographic object provides the basis of my approach to image-making. By using the specifics that photographs can render, I attempt to connect places and ideas through visual associations.
technical note: all images are Van Dyke brown prints on Stonehenge paper. Van Dyke brown is a historical, hand-coated process related to Kallitype and Salt printing processes; created 2001-2007