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I Burn For You

I Burn For You, The Sensual Land

Extending Format, 1997

A great plume of smoke trailed across the sky one morning, spreading from horizon to horizon. It slowly drifted and undulated through the vast blue empyrean above. The whole effect was breathtaking. Even lying on my back I could not take it in all at once. But, shifting my head, back and forth, I could. In my mind it was one great breath made visible. I was not content to break it into pieces. Fragments would not do. No one piece was as strong as the whole. It demanded to be whole.

My widest lens not being long enough, it took three shots to make one. At the seams of each exposure density varied slightly. A curve applied through a gradient mask provided sufficient compensation. I had not overlapped the separate images enough. A touch of perspective correction brought things into closer alignment. The remaining misalignment was removed by cloning information to restore a unified and unbroken field. In the end, it remained whole.

This photograph presents me with a wider view than I could see in any one instant but is faithful to the combined effect of my perceptions in several closely packed instants. In one sense, this image is super real in that it presents me with more information than I could see with my eyes at one time. In another sense it is surreal as the spatial relationships have been distorted in comparison to my perception and my physical or kinetic understanding of them has been removed from the final experience. The photograph presents more and less than my perception.

I find myself constantly struggling to expand the limits of my perception. The photograph is one aid in doing so. It holds single moments still for further contemplation. In those moments all things can be equally clear. Some photographs even represent what I cannot or could not see. Certain photographs can grasp both front and behind, both before and after, and place them side by side for simultaneous comparison. Photography expands my perceptual horizons. And yet, not being the same thing as the process of seeing, but rather a record of it, the photograph can never duplicate the seen or the experience of seeing. Instead, it offers a unique experience, with qualities all its own. There is always a gap between the original experience and the record. Some might see this as a flaw, an inevitable imperfection. I choose to see it as a powerful reminder, one capable of clarifying the nature of the observed, the observer, and the process of observing.