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
arrives in the mail. Open it to find a photograph: a hand gestures toward a
distant, shrouded horizon.
The photograph is simplicity
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
which reaches into the image right from where you stand, could be your hand.
again. Your hand is separated from you by a scrim beaded with water droplets.
itself is an impossibility.
drawn in to, and cut off from, the scene, you are plunged beyond the realm of
the possible into mystery.
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
like the scene, is impossible.
The photograph is an illusion of
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?
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.
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.
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
after writing all of the above, I asked Foster the title of her image. Her
answer: “No title. Feel
free to give it one.”
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.”
shouldn’t really presume but, to me, Otto’s turn of phrase might do.
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