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Causeway l

Causeway l

Recontextualization, 1994

Up is down and down is up in Causeway. Turn the background upside down and the image might not seem unusual. It’s a simple little twist, but it produces a dramatic effect. There’s wish fulfillment here. A walk in the clouds awaits. And there’s anxiety. A deluge hovers overhead. The fate of the moment is uncertain. The destination is unseen. And yet, it’s quite beautiful.

All the elements are beautiful. One thing is particularly special — the light on the causeway. It would be extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate it digitally. Digital renderings don’t yet have the richness of photographs. I wonder if they ever will. The causeway was particularly beautiful that morning, but the elements around it were not as extraordinary at that time. It was having its moment; they had had theirs or would have theirs later. I could wait a lifetime until they were simultaneously equally radiant. Or I could make exposures of them at separate times and combine the best moments into a new whole. That would be resynchronization. This was recomposition. Call it photomontage, call it photo-composition, call it post-visualization, call it what you will — the image is composed after exposure rather than before. The photograph does not document a previously existing moment in time, rather it creates one from many sources. It presents a totally new reality. To those who paint, little is novel about this method. The musician and the writer alike understand how many ways a blank page can be filled.

I find I make photographs differently now. I constantly shoot objects separate from environments. Often the essence of an image is found in its figure/ground relationships. These can be found. Or created. In shooting this way, I find I need to keep many things in mind. First I need to be very clear about my intentions. A sketch or a note in the field does wonders. Still there are times I operate on instinct. I have faith it will lead me where I need to go, a place my conscious mind might not have learned to recognized. At these times, I shoot as I normally would and I shoot a little extra; I bracket composition. I find if I don’t crop in the field, I may forget the picture later. But if I crop too tightly, I leave too little room to maneuver in the future, should the process of creating the image continue at a later date. With several exposures in hand, I empower myself to make those choices rather than having my working methods determine them for me.

Often I find myself having to overcome my previous photographic training about how to make photographs. The traditional methods may limit my options at a later date. Operating with them, I might pass up a photograph with distracting details (which could later be removed, saving an otherwise interesting picture) or crop them out (even though in so doing I crop out a great set of relationships with them). I find this maxim serves me best: Shoot for maximum information. Once I've captured that information, I can edit it at will, but if I don't have it to start with I've got to start all over. Without the traditional foundation I would not be able to capture premium information and I would have missed out on the perceptual modes it encourages, which can be very useful. Traditional photography brings with it a set of questions which yield very interesting answers. If I cast it aside I would have missed them. Again, digital technique is not a substitute for traditional technique; it's a wonderful extension of it. I have not abandoned my conventional roots. I've simply placed them in context that is meaningful to me. I still make conventional photographs when they present themselves. They can be wonderful indeed. Often found images contain more surprises than preconceived images - but not always. The real question is: At what part of the process is the image found, before or after exposure? the limits of my perception are stretched every time I engage in a disciplined exercise of looking at the world around me. I am confronted with the many ways it works.  Similarly, the limits or my perception are challenged every time I look at a blank page. I am confronted with the many ways I work.