Today’s post is about the intimate space that springs to life in this passion that is my photography. You, my community, tend to only see the final product as the print image. While talking with my literary collaborator Stephen Kristian over the past weekend we spent a fair amount of time on the concept of intimacy. The sequence of photos I curated for this series contrast the small spaces that appear to capture the vastness of deep space yet never leave my work studio.
In our conversation, Stephen mentioned that it was very interesting to hear about how I set up each photo. What materials were used, how were they arranged to put in motion the opportunity to capture a photograph. Would it be aa movement or a still shot. How did I know when I bought the glass that it would work. The latter question is more intuition than hard science. Some pieces of glass will only yield one good image, while others are remarkably generous and have a potential to grant new photographs in the future. He also observed and was intrigued that, in every case, I was able to return to setup and fragmented moments in time and recant the photos’ origin story. For example, how the movement was created and this allowed us to move towards the concept of increased openness and familiarity. The three photos were created with liquid in a petri dish. The camera was firing away whilst I was moving the dish to and fro, in circular swirls or suddenly stopping and generate arced wave from the sides of the dish. A sequence appears and a story unfolds. A bit of light/dark adjustments and a vista appears.
This all begs a few questions: why are these impactful photos for me? What memories are evoked and emotions prompted? My mind quickly goes to my latter teenage years… I had a Criterion 8″ Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and spent many hours at night gazing out into space. A planet here and there, a galaxy here and there with attempts to get better views in the still quiet winter air. I would drive to find darker skies. A feat that on Long Island is … difficult. I would eventually come to understand dark skies when living in Los Angeles and driving out to wander through Joshua Tree and Death Valley. I began to understand the phrase ‘the vastness of space’ out there.
The quiet contemplative solitude in those teen days and years quickly comes forward in my mind as I think about these photographs and the sequence. Though my attempts at astrophotography were naïve and produced plenty of artifacts that would mimic these images, I was struck by something. What brought me to deep space in these photos? Perhaps it is a desire to share that internal quiet and moments of internal reflection with you. It would seem to beg another question, in those moments of creative intimacy, can one share the same quiet and solitude that as an artist I seek and crave? Would I move from a creative artist to performance artist?
As a scientist, I know that when we observe interstellar objects in a telescope they do not move with this speed (Webb, Hubble or a lowly terrestrial based one). The deep inky blues and blacks gave me a sense of the enormity and silence of deep space and our circumstance. I would tend to think that our experience is constrained to our perceptions and the inner workings of our mind and body. To move that a step further, our existence becomes a stunningly small fragment of time and our inner world is miniscule. Pause and consider that to emphasize the need to be grateful and hopeful. Perhaps, we deceive ourselves and in moments of hubris distort our sense of self and impact on the universe. I enjoy taking a few minutes to contemplate and reflect upon these two contrasts: the amount of time we spend in our existence here against the yardstick of universal time and/or the volume of our being and the entirety of the volume of the universe. Those thoughts ground me to be remain humbled, grateful and work to savor for each day and every experience.
If we choose to focus on the movement we might find fury, frenetic or frenzy. If we choose to settle on the background and allow the color and light to move through perhaps we find calm, fluidity, or flow. What or how would you tend to interpret the photographs? What is the impression you have or the emotion you feel?
For me it is that sense of of the vastness of dark matter in contrast to the bright colored streaks of pin point light reflections that made the photos work. A sense of quietude blends with tidal shifts and crosscurrents just asks us to settle in and contemplate. Consider. Be curious and ask ourselves: what is it that we see explicitly AND what is it that we feel implicitly.
Perhaps these two questions are part of the shared intimacy of art. An external conversation can occur about what we see, interpret and what we feel. A separate internal conversation can with ourselves that is equally important. As I work in the studio to ‘discover’ these photographs I am able to move outside our world and be in quiet solitude. That is a magical secret place. I look forward to that every week on my Saturdays and Sundays.
There is blue when you observe the photographs, but there are also swaths of green, hints of fuchsia, yellows and violets. Sections are in flight and other areas are calm, some places allow us to perhaps float upon and imaginary tidal movement. There are parallels to Feux d’Artifice de Astronimae. Yet this set of images evokes a much stronger sense of calm and peace. And so I will leave the post here … with a hope for you the observer to find peace and calm within these and my artwork in general.
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