“A black star appears, a point of darkness in the night sky's clarity. Point of darkness and gateway to repose. Reach out, pierce the fine fabric of the sheltering sky, take repose.” 

-Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky















Call and Response; an exploration in photography and writing

Long wait for something real

Here is an example of one exchange from the collaborative book I have been working on (more info about book below):

Text by Nancy Brokaw
Image by Julianna Foster

A package arrives in the mail. Open it to find a photograph: a hand gestures toward a distant, shrouded horizon.

The photograph is simplicity itself

The hand reaches from the lower right corner of the image up to the horizon, reaching, or so it seems, for the cascade of little suns that tumble down from the opposite corner.

The hand, which reaches into the image right from where you stand, could be your hand.

But look again. Your hand is separated from you by a scrim beaded with water droplets.

The scene itself is an impossibility.

At once drawn in to, and cut off from, the scene, you are plunged beyond the realm of the possible into mystery.

Is the hand—your hand?—reaching out in fear, as if to ward off an approaching threat? Or does it yearn, stretching toward a boundary you cannot breach, a world you can never enter? Is the gesture a farewell, a valediction to a departing soul? Or a last good-bye to the world itself as if, in taking leave of life, your impossible, off-screen surrogate aches to touch this sweet old world one more time?

An answer, like the scene, is impossible.

The photograph is an illusion of the real

As invented, the photograph was a triumph of empiricism, William Henry Fox Talbot’s pencil of nature: Here was the visible world—the world of solid objects and surface beauty— transcribed by an unholy alliance of physics and chemistry. Holding a photograph in your hands, you held a slice of reality, an objective moment of time forever fixed on a piece of paper.

Or did you?

The photograph is a child, too, of magic. At least one of its inventors—Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre was a man of the stage, a lighting designer and a creator of theatrical illusions. Before inventing the daguerreotype, he made a living, and a pretty good one at that, with another of his inventions: the diorama—a proto-cinematic theater that created illusions of reality through the manipulation of light. Sitting in a darkened theater, his audience viewed a painted scene that seemed to move before their eyes. Using techniques of reflection and refraction of changing light on a semi-transparent canvas, Daguerre created trompe l’oeil effects that could make candles in a painted church scene seem to flicker and mist descend on a mountainside village.

Like the magician, the photographer is a master manipulator of perception. The medium has long been the handmaiden of the uncanny, the surreal, the mysterious: from the early days on—from William Mumler, one of the first of the 19th-century spirit photographers, right up to Adam Fuss and his daguerreotypes of smoke—those of a metaphysical mind have explored the paradox of a photography that pierces the veil of reality.

Playing with your faith in the truth-value of the photographic image, Julianna Foster is heir to that tradition. She presents you with a patently impossible, unphotographable scene, and conjuring up a hand that emerges in a mysterious liminal space, she invites you into the unknown and leads you to the question:

What do you look at when you look at this photograph?

Me? To my eye, this image is infused with a sense of wonder and regret. It is as though our proxy, represented by that reaching hand, glimpses the sublime in an array of suns. But the sublime—this dream of transcendence—is forever beyond your reach.

One day, after writing all of the above, I asked Foster the title of her image. Her answer: “No title. Feel free to give it one.”

That night, I sat down to watch Tarkovsy’s The Sacrifice. Halfway in, the local eccentric (cum mystic) Otto speaks of his “long wait for something real.”


I shouldn’t really presume but, to me, Otto’s turn of phrase might do.

Call and Response; an exploration in photography and writing


Call and Response; an exploration in photography and writing

The impetus for this project is to explore connections between the language of photography and writing, which has been an enduring interest and subject of my work for some time now. In such an abundantly creative and active artist community as Philadelphia, I saw an opportunity to expand my exploration of the subject and participation within the community by inviting other artists—visual artists and writers—to participate in a dialogue with one another’s work. 

Beginning in April 2015, I shared one of my photographs with a writer and asked them to create a text that in some way responded to that image.  That text was then passed on to another visual artist (particularly artists that use photography in their work), who responded, in turn, with an image, and so on. As described by a fellow artist, it was like an anonymous game of ‘telephone.’  The only instructions: the identity of participating artists would not be shared with their fellow contributors during the process, and participants must respond within a timely four to six weeks. There were no other parameters or restrictions. Participating artists were aware that their contributions would ultimately be presented in a book and/or an exhibition. Two years later, the project has amassed contributions from 30 artists, all chosen by me, and resulted in a rich dialogue between artists, images and text.

With the utmost gratitude and thanks to all that offered their creative responses to this project:
Jaime Alvarez, Jordan Baumgarten, Andre Bradley, Nancy Brokaw, Doug Bohr, Stephanie Bursese, John Carlano, Christina Day, Becky Huff Hunter, Kelsey Halliday Johnson, Matt Kalasky, Homay King, Isabel Lederman, June Yong Lee,JenMarie MacDonald, Anne Massoni, Samantha Mitchell, Jena Osman, Catherine Pancake, Jordan Rockford, Ron Tarver, Nato Thompson, Jennah White, Yolanda Wisher, Tamsen Wojtanowski, Linda Yun





A few spreads from my new book, titled Lone Hunter

Check out my studio visit with the folks from Grizzly Grizzly, these are some spreads from a limited edition book I'm creating for the Community Supported Art project (CSA) 




Tell me, are you a lone hunter?

Lone Hunter

From a new book in the works, titled Lone Hunter

Dear, are you waning or waxing?

we shall leave this to time and chance
a trace, that crosses the fault line

luminously,

now, aligned as we are, as if it was to become a long, dark night

we were surveying, searching, measuring, of sorts

there in the vista, I can find you
hunting by the light
as if there was some urgency, under the canopy of a night sky

Imagine retracing our steps, to be born here and glide along with patience

you whispered, am I emerging or descending?  tell me, are you a lone hunter?

Just as it was, you come to me during the small hours


yielding, before you follow from above.


I'll be wearing a river's disguise.

If you are looking
for
me.


Moon light



Images for a new book in the works, more info soon.




 Just as it was, you still come to me in the small hours.
It started a few years ago, summertime. 
The vista in the distance and the dark looming moon. Crossing paths, joining, then separating as you were leaving and he was entering.  Blurry eyed and dreamy, this is were i  find you.