With the workshop season drawing to a close, I found myself inspired to photograph and eager to get back to my own work. The pool is currently unavailable (details soon….), but my heart is with the mirrors for the time being anyway.

I’ve been playing with a different palette in the studio this time, and in just the last few weeks have already had some excellent shoots and exciting developments. Although it hasn’t been quite as intense as “binge shooting“, I have my hands full with the editing process and new images to work with. I’m looking forward to sharing more soon, but in the meantime here is one of the latest:

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Untitled #12-01-15-39

When I’m photographing with the mirrors, I typically shoot at least two models at a time, either combining them into a single figure or looking for an interesting relationship between the two. In Untitled #12-01-15-39, I was only working with one model- Cory, of course- and experimenting with different light and color in preparation for another upcoming shoot. This image was somewhat of a surprise- I just love the color gradation on the body, and how it blends with the background in just the right area’s. The “contrapposto” (which sounds like something you order at Grano Emporio) of the figure feels classical, reminding me of the ancient Greek sculpture Kritios Boy. It also brought to mind Michelangelo’s Dying Slave, which I always rush to see when I’m visiting the Louvre. I would love to hear any thoughts!

More recent work to come soon….

 

We’re cleaning out!

In an attempt to clean out the studio, from now through the holidays I have a selection of books on sale:

Reflections: 25 Years of Photography by Connie Imboden

This is my latest monograph, featuring 150 images that represent some of my favorite discoveries throughout the years, including some never before published black and white images and a selection of the early color work. Putting this book together drew connections between some of the threads that have come up throughout my work from the beginning, and revealed new meaning and metaphors in both old and recent photographs. The reproductions are beautiful, and the essays by A.D. Coleman, Arthur Ollman, and John Wood are eloquent. Hardcover, published by Insight Editions.

Original Price: $50
SALE PRICE: $30

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LIMITED EDITION:

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The limited edition of Reflections comes in a clamshell box and includes a signed and editioned print of Untitled #7146, approx. 9″x12″.  The original price for Reflections L.E. is $500, but is now available for $200.

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Connie Imboden: Beauty of Darkness
Beauty of Darkness is one of the more popular books I’ve published, including stunning reproductions of images from 1986 – 1998, and poetic essays by A.D. Coleman and Arthur Ollman. I was on press in Verona, Italy to approve each plate produced by Stamperia Valdonega to ensure the highest quality printing. The cloth cover is gorgeous, with a tipped in plate of Untitled #4442, and is protected by a beautifully smooth dust jacket. Hardcover, published by Custom and Limited Editions.

Original Price: $65
SALE PRICE: $30

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LIMITED EDITION:

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There is also a limited edition of Beauty of Darkness available, although I only have a handful left. This one comes in a very nice hard clothbound case,  and includes a signed and editioned print, approx. 9.5″x12.5″.  The original price forBeauty of Darkness L.E. is $600, but is now available for $200. The included print can be selected from Untitled #5802Untitled #7402, or Untitled #7790. To purchase, click on your choice:

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Untitled #5802
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Untitled #7402
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Untitled #7790
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Out of Darkness

Although the regular edition is sold out, I have come across a couple remaining available limited editions of Out of Darkness. This very early monograph highlights my work from 1986 – 1991, including a few images that were never published before or after its publication, the reproductions of which are some of the best I’ve seen. Artfully published by Esther Woerderhoff and FotoFolie, it received a Silver Medal in Switzerland’s illustrious “Schönste Bücher aus aller Welt” (“Most Beautiful Book in the World”) Award in 1992.


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The remaining two limited edition copies of Out of Darkness are the last in a signed and numbered collector’s edition of only 150 books. It comes in a white, hard protective case, which has a separate section for the included signed and numbered print enclosed in a matching high quality folio. While this book is not on sale, there are only a couple copies left in the edition, available for $1000.

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The included print can be selected from Untitled #1894 or Fire. To purchase, click on your choice:

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Untitled #1894
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Fire
Fire
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Me in action, photo by Alexis Mpaka
Me in action, photo by Alexis Mpaka

Last week’s Interdisciplinary Retreat with the MFA program at the Maine Media Workshops & College was so intense, so completely chock full of enlightening discourse and insightful discussions, that my brain hurts from thinking so hard. I’m not sure I’ve been able to actually think ever since… I fear I may have sprained my brain.

It was, in short, a fantastic time.

For three and a half days, experts from a variety of fields gathered to critique the work of MMW+C students, offering feedback from a diverse range of disciplines including photography, filmmaking, writing, and painting. Each student received a nearly hour long crit, with incredibly engaging and profound conversations arising from the many different points of view on hand. Beginning at 8:30 or 9am, every day was so full that our lunch and dinner hours grew progressively shorter and shorter, although the food was- as always- utterly fabulous.

The students work this year was particularly compelling, and they all received critiques with openness and eagerness. Having worked with many of the students in the past, I loved reconnecting with everyone and was impressed by how much their work had improved. Carol Eisenberg, who I’ve been mentoring for some time, exhibited tremendous evolution in her images. Since we primarily meet over Facetime/Skype/etc, it was wonderful to see her images printed and hung on the wall.

photo by Carol Eisenberg
photo by Carol Eisenberg

Another student, Joe Mullan, had been a student of mine through the mentorship program offered by the MMW+C, and is graduating with his MFA degree this fall. During his thesis defense, I made a comment which inspired him to stand up for himself and question me in return. When I responded by saying that in all the time we’ve worked together he’d never spoken to me that way, the whole place erupted in laughter, and we all agreed that it was a sure sign that he is ready to graduate.

Joe Mullan, photo by Alexis Mpaka
Joe Mullan, photo by Alexis Mpaka

Anna LaBenz, a student whose work I critiqued two years prior, presented work that had considerably improved. My goal in offering feedback is to look at the images and express what is and isn’t working, and how I “read” the photograph from an objective standpoint, never to intentionally offend or hurt anyone. Anna found the critique I gave her years ago to be somewhat severe, however, and it motivated her to progress. This year, she stated that she was “really glad Connie is here, because two years ago she gave me a harsh critique, and I said to myself ‘I’m gonna show that woman'”! I replied by saying “You just did”, and everyone cheered and roared as an almost celebration of how far she had truly come.

photo by Alexis Mpaka
photo by Alexis Mpaka

It was wonderful to be working with the Maine Media Workshops again, as it always is. Over so many years, I have developed a sincere fondness for the school, it’s supportive environment, and the goodwill displayed by the faculty and staff towards the students. Everyone is enabled to go beyond what they think they are capable of and it is extremely rewarding for me to be a part of. The opportunity to work alongside the other visiting faculty was truly an illuminating experience, and all of the students presented innovative, highly sophisticated work. Bestor Cram, executive producer and creative director of Northern Light Productions who was the other visiting artist, summed up the experience beautifully:

“This years MFA retreat experience for me as a visiting faculty member was a powerful reminder of the capacity for art to be transformative. I am impressed by the culture you — the faculty and students — have created that supports the growth of individual creativity as a discipline that emerges from a determined pursuit of self realization, and a recognition that boundaries are to be crossed.”

Many thanks to MMW+C for all of their support and hospitality, and CONGRATULATIONS to Joe Mullan and Rob Skeoch on graduating with their MFA degrees- you both worked extremely hard and have earned it!

For more excellent photo coverage of the retreat by Alexis Mpaka, click here!

I’ll be heading up to Maine next week for another visit to the Maine Media Workshops & College for a 5 day Interdisciplinary Retreat with the MFA program. This intensive program offers students the opportunity to be critiqued by experts in a variety of fields and disciplines, including photography, filmmaking, writing, and even history.

Getting feedback from others is a valuable asset to the creative process. It can help us to see our work with fresh eyes, reveal potential directions, and understand our work more objectively. When the feedback is from artists working outside our field, it can offer unique insights from an entirely different perspective. The point of view from someone working in a different medium can inform and elevate our work, opening doors we would otherwise not recognize or know existed.

Working alongside everyone at the MMW+C MFA retreats is an exhilarating experience and opens my mind to new approaches. It is a wonderful opportunity not only for the MFA students, but for the artists and professionals working with them, and I’m looking forward to being a part of it again. The folks at MMW+C recently covered the upcoming retreat in their E-Newsletter, which I thought I’d share here on the blog.

See you in Maine!

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MFA candidate Megan Waring
MFA candidate Megan Waring, photo © Mark Edward Dawson

Next week, our MFA students will return to Rockport for the second of two annual retreats. It’s always thrilling for us to see how their projects evolve after months of synthesizing feedback from mentors, instructors, and peers. Equally exciting is the addition of this term’s guest faculty members, fine art photographer Connie Imboden and documentary cinematographer Bestor Cram. Both bring rich and divergent skill sets to share with this cohort of artists, who represent a similarly diverse range of talents and interests. Bringing these photographers, filmmakers, and multimedia artists together for a week of intense learning is a catalyst for fresh creative insight, and it’s something our students often credit for pushing their work to the next level.

Bestor Cram
Bestor Cram

Led by our core MFA faculty members who work with candidates throughout the year, our retreats always feature a new pair of guest faculty members to provide fresh professional perspective on both photography and filmmaking. These interdisciplinary conversations are often some of the most powerful elements of the retreat. Connie, for example, explained how much she appreciates a filmmaker’s perspective of photography. “I love hearing from a filmmaker’s point of view about composition in a still image because they think about it differently than still photographers,” Connie explained. “Their concerns with time, movement, and what happens next are reflected in their attention to composition.”

Bestor added that when it comes to filmmaking, bringing in different perspectives is also just a sign of the times, since technology has opened filmmaking to a wide variety of new participants. “Filmmakers today are musicians, rock climbers, graphic artists, skate boarders, painters, linguists, photographers, soldiers, writers, divers, cooks, teachers – the list is endless,” he said. “What has happened is a uniting of many interests into the common goal of visual storytelling.”

Connie and Bestor are representative of the caliber of talent that lead our MFA retreats, a key component to this three-year, low-residency program. Like them, our core faculty members and mentors are accomplished professionals and internationally recognized luminaries active in their artistic practices. With students working independently and guided from afar for much of the year, face time with these master artists takes on a heightened significance and results in creatively powerful days for the students.

MFA faculty Cig Harvey and candidate Anna LaBenz
MFA faculty Cig Harvey and candidate Anna LaBenz, photo © Mark Edward Dawson

MFA candidate Anna LaBenz is a photographer who had specialized in self-portraits and landscapes before seeking out our program. Since then, she has branched out to sound scape, prints-on-fabric installations, and unconventional book forms. “For years I fought my instinctual impulses because they did not fit with the work I saw being made by my peers,” Anna said. “After starting the program my mentor advised me to go out and respond to the world around me, to let my camera show the way. My work has evolved from prints on a wall to beautiful installations that feel like compartments of memory.” Anna said working with high-caliber artists from different disciplines has not only pushed her to try new things, but has also given her work more spark and breadth. “Having artists from different genres working together creates an inspirational, exciting, and creative environment,” Anna said. “It breaks down the barriers that different genres can put up around themselves, allowing for greater exploration.”

Connie also noted that just as photographers can benefit from a filmmaker’s critique, the reverse is also true. “For me, the challenge of critiquing a film can be exciting in seeing how my own visual sensitivities translate to a different medium, and how we each have the opportunity to transcend the limitations of our different disciplines to broaden our outlooks,” she explained.

MFA faculty Wayne Beach and candidate Luis Zeron, photo © Mark Edward Dawson
MFA faculty Wayne Beach and candidate Luis Zeron, photo © Mark Edward Dawson

That is the spirit behind the retreat, Bestor says, to broaden horizons and push artists into new frontiers that are now more open for exploration than ever before. “Our world is no longer linear but involves often interactive non-linear storytelling, bringing our audience into our storytelling space to participate, not just consume,” he said. “We never stop cooking with new recipes. We are hungry for more than food. And we are starved for new ways to prepare it.”

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR THE MAINE MEDIA MFA PROGRAM

Check out this wonderful interview with MMW+C Instructor Connie Imboden,
produced by our Newman Media Producer Devin Altobello

My annual trip up to Rockport to teach at the Maine Media Workshops always feels like coming home.  I have many special memories, such as being served lobster by Arnold Newman – who was in line before me and, picking up his lobster, turned to me and gallantly offered it.  A thrill I still hold dear.  The first workshop I ever taught at the MMW I had a great teaching assistant named Elizabeth Greenberg, who is now the vice president for academic affairs and a dear friend.   Yes, I have been teaching there a long time.

This year, my week teaching in Maine FLEW by! We work extremely hard for a solid week, but we also know how to have a good time…. 

Lobster Roll in Maine

Our frequent visits to Graffam’s shack proved that their famous lobster roll was just as I remembered it – PHENOMENAL.

The karaoke tradition at Cuzzy’s on Thursday night was as raucous as ever.  Our song this year was Blowin’ in the Wind – and if I do say so myself, we nailed it.  And the Friday night slide show, a celebration featuring the work from all the workshops running that week, was very impressive.  I felt quite proud of our class and walked around campus the next day all puffed up!

The Students

…were remarkable as ever! I am always amazed to find that teaching a workshop at MMW every year centering around photographing the nude can consistently yield images that are surprising and new. It just goes to show that it’s truly not what you photograph, but how you photograph that is of value! The students were dedicated, devoted to making their imagery the best it could be, and open to trying a different approach.  Willing to leave their “safe place” behind with the daily assignments I gave them, they pushed themselves and me.  In other words, they were the best students a teacher can ask for!

Peter Siegesmund
Peter S.

 

Carol Chu
Carol Chu

 

Heather Velez
Heather Velez

 

Sanja Matonickin
Sanja Matonickin

 

The Interview

One thing that was new this year was being interviewed by the folks at the Maine Media Workshops, who did a fantastic job putting together a brief bio video on yours truly. It highlights my work and features me rambling on about creative process, exploration, intuition, and all that good stuff. Despite shooting it at the end of an exhausting week of teaching, I could not be happier with the result!

THANK YOU!!

I always feel like I can never thank the folks at MMW enough for all the hard work, generous support, and wonderful hosting they provide every year. I am forever grateful and look forward to the Workshops every year, and so from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!

And of course – a very special thank you to my dedicated students in 2015 – Carol Chu, Sanja Matonickin, Peter S., and Heather Velez! I have been just as eager to share the excellent work you did as I am to share my own, and I hope to see more of your images in the future!

I was honored to have my work recently published in a new, cutting edge publication called The Stone. Designed by the creative team at Pil Associati, a communications agency based in Italy, The Stone explores the evolution and transformation between the intersections of art, communication, society, and technology.

I just received a copy of the inaugural issue, and it is stunning. The design is inventive and dynamic, and I was really impressed by the overall quality.

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As for the content, the work they’ve chosen to represent is evocative and exciting.  It seems to exhibit an awareness of global culture and visual awareness.  I was particularly impressed with their interview questions- they were intriguing, insightful, and made me really think about my responses:

TS:  Your shots transport us to a dimension in between the unconscious and the lucid dream. What do they want to show us? What other realities emerge?

CI:  Perhaps they depict that very transition from unconscious to awareness, from dream to awake, or from one dimension to another and anywhere in between. The realities that emerge may express experiences of the mind or of the psyche, revealing different levels of awareness and psychological states of being.

TS:  Mutation is the only constant reality. How has your art changed shape over time?

CI:  Over the years, I have found that whatever my approach to looking at the human form, it is all one body of work, and that each informs one another. I envision this as a spiral, continually going from water to mirrors to hot tub and back to water, and so on, with each cycle taking anywhere from 10-15 years to complete. Not only do these cycles include the situation, but patterns of visual deconstruction and reconstruction, as well as mythological and psychological issues. In revisiting the same place on the spiral years later, I see differently, elevated by previous approaches. I return to the same situation with new eyes and heightened awareness to nuances and subtleties that I could not have seen before. In addition, it’s not just my eyes that have evolved – I have changed as well. I’m a different person, having lived my life, experienced love, loss, death, and all the myriad experiences that impact a person’s perspective.

Thanks again to Valentina Ottone, Federica Capparuccia, Chiara Castronovo and all the folks at Pil Associati collaborating on The Stone Mag for inviting me to contribute, and looking forward to seeing more!

To check out the interview in its entirety, click below!!

Continue reading “The Stone Mag”

It’s as fact of life: $h!t happens.

Last week, while chasing my lovely little dog Lucy just outside my studio, I successfully found a particularly slippery section of the recently rained on deck. While I felt fine initially, even marveling at my dexterity in catching myself and the grace with which I fell, my wrist became increasingly sore and was gradually swelling.  The rise of my heart rate was proportional to my fading pride as my assistant drove me to Patient First 20 painful minutes later.

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I’m not an expert, so I find it hard to judge from the x-ray, but I apparently fractured a bone in my wrist.  Major bummer, and unfortunate timing: I had arranged for another “binge – shooting” session with Carl, who was traveling up from New Orleans the very next day for a month long visit.  I couldn’t even efficiently tie a shoe lace – how was I supposed to get behind the camera?

Throughout both my personal life and my creative process, I have learned that challenges will continue to arise as time rolls by.  I’ve also learned that- after a suitable and acceptable period of self pity- it is important to meet these challenges head on.  I would not be deterred…THE SHOOT MUST GO ON! connie-broken-wrist-2

With a cast on my arm for the next 6 weeks (again, major bummer), pool shooting was out of the question, so it meant a return to the mirror work.  I met with my trusty consultant – Google – to determine what my options were, and found a variety of devices that could make photographing with a busted limb possible.  Novaflex makes a very simple monopod-type brace that can be worn around the neck to both support the weight of the camera and enable one handed shooting.  I eagerly ordered one and had it delivered the next day, conveniently coinciding with Carl’s arrival.

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With the exception of a few limitations, this thing is perfect.  I’m forced to shoot horizontally, but I frequently find myself doing so with the mirror work anyway, so that’s not a huge loss.  I am more restricted in my movements however, which presents a bit of a challenge when I’m trying to really explore what I’m looking at.  I’m also forced to slow down while shooting – manually focusing and other simple camera operations require a little more effort when only using one hand.  This increased effort takes a lot out of me, and I find the shoots are a bit shorter in duration.  I get worn out sooner, and then the paranoia that the flesh under my cast is putrifying under the sweat and stress of it all causes me to wrap things up sooner rather than later.

– BUT –

The shoots so far have been FANTASTIC!  After only a few days worth of shooting, I’m already thrilled with a number of the images and have my ‘handful’ (get it??) with the early stages of editing.  I’m still working with the cool, drained-of-life blue tones illuminating one of the models, as well as continuing to incorporate more of the “Ruben’s Red” that seems to create a sense of atmosphere reminiscent of Renaissance imagery.  This time around, I’ve made some subtle adjustments – some by choice and some forced by the limitations of working one-handed – that have really made a dramatic impact.

I’m also finding that in many of the images, the limbs (particularly the left arm) appear either broken or putrified….COINCIDENCE?!  😉

While the binge shooting continues, I hope to get around to at least some editing to be able to share this work as soon as possible, so stay tuned!

It’s getting to be that time of year when I start looking forward to teaching at some of my favorite workshops!  Three of my favorite workshops are on deck for this summer: The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA, the Maine Media Workshops in Rockport, ME, and The Center for Photography at Woodstock.

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The Authentic Encounter:

FAWC-promo-2015By the end of this workshop, you will see the world differently.OK, so that sounds crazy, but consider this: Our vision is so often limited by what we know that we see what we expect to see instead of what is actually in front of us.  This can be particularly challenging to us as photographers; we might try approaching new subject matter, or using different photographic techniques, but inevitably feel like we’re making the same image over and over.  That’s where this workshop comes in.We will learn that it is not what you photograph, but how you photograph that is important.  Through exercises, assignments, and discussions, the goal of this workshop is to learn to use the camera as a tool to discover new ways of looking at and experiencing the world around us.  Instead of thinking things through and being in control, we will learn to develop an intuitive visual approach in our work, trusting in our eyes to guide us.

Last year’s students were as exceptional as ever, and produced some incredible images that really illustrate what it means to see graphically:

Howard Rubin
Howard Rubin
Drayden Hebb
Drayden Hebb
Ray Clarke
Ray Clarke
Isaac Reyes
Isaac Reyes
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The Authentic Encounter is less than two months away on July 5 – July 10 at The Fine Arts Work Center at 24 Pearl Street, Provincetown MA 02657

 

 

The Inspirational Nude:

MaineMediaThis workshop has always been very special for me, and every year I look forward to the opportunity to work with students on tackling the challenging and complicated task of photographing the human form.  The body has been the most popular and most used subject throughout the history of art since ancient and prehistoric times.  It has been used as a vehicle for expressing the most profound emotions – love, sorrow, anger, ecstasy, sex. It is a powerful subject that can force us to confront ourselves and how we see the body; our reactions, our discomfort, or our attraction.  But in order to do so, we must free ourselves of the predetermined notions we have established when interpreting the human form.

In 2014, I was impressed with how quickly my students discovered new ways of looking at the human body, pushing themselves to new levels of seeing and exploring an intuitive approach in photographing the nude:

Charlie Lemay
Charlie Lemay
Carol Macleod
Carol Macleod
Inese Moore
Inese Moore
Eric Smith
Eric Smith
Carla Tyson
Carla Tyson
Luke Utley
Luke Utley

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You could not ask for a better time of the year to be in scenic Rockport Maine! The Inspirational Nude takes place July 26 – August 1, at The Maine Media Workshops, 70 Camden St, Rockport ME 04856

 

 

Using The Nude To See In A New Way:

logo_CPW1Similar to The Inspirational Nude workshop in Maine, this two day course emphasizes an intuitive approach in photographing the nude in order to encourage new ways of seeing this classic subject.  Artists have always used the nude figure to explore the surreal and the natural, as well as our spiritual and psychological lives. In this workshop, you will be encouraged to explore the figure for its beauty, complexity, and simplicity. Whether you regularly photograph the nude, are new to the figure, or feel stuck and just need a push to get back into photography, this class will deliver a burst of energy, new methods, direction, and clarity.

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Using the Nude to See In A New Way will be August 22 – 23, and will include a public lecture at 7:30pm on the 22nd, at the Center for Photography at Woodstock, 59 Tinker Street, Woodstock, NY 12498

For more information and to register, click here!

 

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Untitled #1-22-15-288 is another recent image from my last “binge shooting” session with Carl and Cory. The figure is deformed, with its legs appearing as stumps and an odd sensation that his body is caving in on itself. He is in transition, caught in a spontaneous moment of struggle as his body morphs into something else, perhaps a corpse?

Many of the images from this shoot are quite dark, but this is nothing new. Darkness has always shown up in my images, especially in working with the mirrors.

In 1991 I had the good fortunate to meet Stanley, a young schizophrenic man, and I asked him if he wanted to model for me. When I showed him my work and talked about what I wanted to do, he enthusiastically agreed to be part of the project.   We had a weekly appointment to photograph.  I would show Stanley the images we had made the week before, and we would talk about them: what they meant to me and what they meant to him.  We talked openly about the psychological quality of the work, and about his condition.  I realized that his personal experiences could push my work to a new level. The conversations we had offered me insight and understanding into both Stanley and the photographs.  Stanley and I worked together for about a year, and the images we made grew deeper and darker as the trust and understanding between us grew.

3757Photographing Stanley alone, without another model, enabled me to concentrate on just him.  I worked with integrating his position and gestures with the marks on the mirrors, as in Untitled #3757.  I had always admired the way that painters could be expressive with the way they applied the paint and realized that the marks on the mirror could also be quite expressive, especially when combined in a visually striking way with the gesture of the model.

I cannot explain how these images came to be so psychologically challenging.  Initially it was not easy to photograph Stanley: I did not want to pose or direct him too much, and he wasn’t sure what to do or how to move.  As a way to diffuse the awkward tension that was building between us, I suggested we put on some music.  Stanley loved the idea, and picked out what he wanted to listen to from my collection.  He immediately began moving with the music, and I encouraged him to relate to the marks on the mirror as he did.  He was creative and an artist, so his gestures were interesting to me.  Often I would ask him to stop, move this way or that, purely responding to the visual elements, trying to further integrate his body with the lines and marks on the mirror.  Stanley did not filter himself, he had a direct and genuine quality.   Because of his disease, he wore no public mask, so he often exposed what most people hide, leaving him raw and vulnerable. In a fascinating sort of dance, I was reacting on a visually intuitive level to his equally intuitive movements.

The symbiotic dynamic between Stanley and me led to some dark and challenging images, further enforcing the power of an intuitive creative process.  I felt these images came from someplace outside of myself.  I have known darkness intimately throughout my life, and the emotions I felt from these images were not alien to me.  At that particular time, however, they did not feel like they were mine.  I was not having any crises when these images were made; on the contrary, I was happily in a relationship and pleased with how my career was going.  There was no angst in my life at the time.  Neither were the images a recording of Stanley’s psychosis;  he was not having a breakdown when we were working together.  We never tried to illustrate the expression of any particular emotion or psychological condition, and the images consistently surprised me.

The painter Piet Mondrian (1872 – 1912) expressed the experience this way: “The position of the artist is humble.  He is essentially a channel”  – accessing an expression from a deeper place, or what Jung would call the collective unconscious.  This is exactly what was happening when Stanley and I shot together.  The darkness and intensity of the images we produced was unintentional, but expressed real and recognizable pain.  Once again, letting go of trying to consciously control the meaning of the image, rather letting my eyes lead and using the camera as a tool to explore, opened me to the power of intuition.


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The session this image (#3725) was made was like any other shoot with Stanley—spontaneously creating the experience and the images together.  He danced with the music we had playing while I worked on incorporating his movements in a visually cohesive way with the marks on the mirror.  Yet this image takes us over the edge of sanity, into a type of psychosis, a disorienting place full of unimaginable terrors where the protective masks and the egos are demolished. The word psychosis is literally a disorder of the soul. This image illustrates an agonizing condition, a spiritual crisis of prolonged darkness and profound loneliness Christians refer to as the “Dark Night of the Soul”.  The figure could be the embodiment of evil, a contortion of the soul so twisted the essence becomes perverted into malevolence.  It is shocking and disturbing because we all recognize this state, whether we want to look at it or not.  Perhaps this makes it uncomfortable because it forces us to confront the potential evil in all of us.  Untitled #3725 does not refer directly to the darkest moments of my life, or of Stanley’s, but of darkness itself, the darkness we all know.

This is the power, and also the danger, of the intuitive process.  It does, if followed, eventually lead directly to some deep, core stuff, and that core stuff can be quite dark. I have often been tempted to turn my back and quit; the process has been hideously difficult at times, uncomfortably revealing at others.  It has also been the most profoundly satisfying endeavor that has opened up the world to me and brought my life meaning and great joy.

After the invention of the CON-traption solved many of the logistical issues involved with shooting in the pool, the biggest hurdle I faced was finding bodies to put in the water. Two of my go-to models that I had worked with for years had moved out of town, and this coincided with a relative scarcity of models in general. The solution was to invite Ruth, a student of mine at The Maine Media Workshops and a dear friend, to stay at the house and spend the week shooting intensively.  Our work together was so successful and productive that as soon as I had recovered I invited Carl, one of my regular models who moved away, to visit and shoot for a week.  This intense method of shooting has become a new way of working for me, and I have since come to refer to it as “binge-shooting”.

It literally took months to go through and edit all of the images from the pool shoots with Ruth and Carl (and I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface).  By January of 2015 however, I was eager for more, and invited Carl to visit for another session of binge shooting…

With the pool – and the CON-traption– officially closed for the winter, it was back to photographing in the mirrors.  With Carl staying at the Imboden Compound, we would shoot at least two to three times a day.  While this was once again an exhausting amount to shoot in just one week’s time, the buildup of my visual acuity was remarkable due to the overall intensity. I found I needed less time to warm up- we would shoot in the morning, look at the work over lunch and discuss what was or wasn’t working, and jump right back into it. I loved how quickly I progressed, and I was thrilled with many of the images that resulted.

In the previous binge shooting sessions under the water, I had explored ways of bringing in different intensities of color and introducing more of it, something I had been working with in the proceeding mirror images.  This time, back to the mirrors, I was interested in experimenting with the darker, cooler tones I had grown fond of in the water images.  Eschewing the usual red gel in favor of a deeper blue filter to light one of the model’s, I found myself working with a ghastly palette in these reflections…

Untitled #01-15-15-533
Untitled #01-15-15-533

In Untitled #01-15-15-533, the blue gel over the light on the model behind the mirror echoes the underwater hues, rendering him entirely in cool tones.  The model in front of the mirror is lit more naturally, keeping the flesh realistic.  The quality of the blue is more dense than it was under the water, a little deeper and slightly less green, making those areas appear drained of life, putrified, or frostbitten.  With the bodies combined into one figure, the contrast with the warm flesh is not as violerubens-boreas-abducts-oreithyant as it had been with the red filter, but is still unsettling.  To further change up the color palette, I swapped out the blue that had become an integral part of the backgrounds in the mirror images with the deep red of a large bath towel.  The resulting hue is lush, not quite as passionate or vibrant as that of the light through the red filter, and offers a sense of depth and space.  It is a rich, luxuriant red, like the drapery that appears in so much Renaissance imagery, leading me to refer to it as “Ruben’s Red” after the 16th century Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens.  The red creates an environment, giving the background a sense of atmosphere.  Interestingly, I’m working with essentially the same color palette as the previous mirror work, except in these images using the blue as the primary color on the body and red as the background, instead of vice-versa.

Untitled #01-27-15-168
Untitled #01-27-15-168

Of course, this binge shooting session wouldn’t be complete without Ruth, who was not only eager and willing to participate in another intense week in front of the camera, but was able to overlap her visit for the same week that Carl was staying.  Suddenly finding myself working with an abundance of models, I was energized by everyone’s enthusiasm and we were photographing like crazy.  In Untitled #01-27-15-168, Ruth is behind the mirror and illuminated by the blue filtered strobe.  Her figure is at peace, again emanating a sense that she is drained of life, but this time the body tapers from a solid form towards a more ethereal state at the bottom.  The solemn embrace of the male figure is pensive, and the way their bodies line up between the mirrors is very precise.  I love the way Carl’s head seems to rest at the top of Ruth’s chest and neck, and the tenderness in the expression.  I also love where the lines of Ruth’s arm fade into and echo the folds of the red bath towel in such an interesting way on the left side.  The texture and marks on the mirrors surface integrate with both of the figures and contribute to the fading from solid to whispy forms.

As with the first week of “binge-shooting”, I’m overwhelmed by the amount of work we managed to produce in such a short period of time, and I still have a ton of editing to do.  There’s such a large crop of really quality images, these were just some of the first couple to really stand out.  I’m looking forward to getting more posted here soon before I’m completely buried by the next intense “binge-shooting” session!