The classicists who write photography textbooks dutifully translate
"photography" from the Greek as "light writing." It was Cervantes who
saw translation as “the back side of a tapestry,” and in the case of
photography’s many translators, most have been staring at the wall.
In photographic language, light is read as grammar; as an aesthetic
tool, helping the artist describe an apprehended visual world. I am
pursuing a visual world where light is syntactic; light veering
close to content. In all my work light is cultural and political.
It is put there by someone, for a purpose: to invite citizens to
share their money with corporations, to keep workers working, to
describe democracy, to allow paintings in museums to be seen in one
In Illilluminations I am photographing grand and gorgeous
failures of light to sync up to its supposed functions: Braille
billboards, odd elaborate shadows behind figurative sculptures,
spring pear blossoms arc lit into oblivion, neon koans to no one.
I am interested in light that obscures as it illumines, that overstates
and overblows, and in some cases, that fails to appear at all. You
can sift through any photographer’s amassed images and find moments
when the light shifts from something that describes to something
that is described; moments when the photographer has seen or better,
understood — the light.
As a child I used to walk up a drumlin in Amherst, Mass. to look at the
stars. Over time it became obvious that the beauty I saw in them was learned.
The lights flickering through the valley below were much more beautiful than
the ones in the sky: they backed up, they changed color, they disappeared.
They strived to illuminate the world, but from that distance, were all that
was illumined. They were beautiful failures, while the stars were old saws
with great P.R. — bands that could pack stadiums on the reputation of a few
antique hits. Both circumstances interest me now, and Illilluminations is an
attempt to stretch a body of work to incorporate beautiful failures and
lapsed beauties, ways light can back up into really meaning.