This page archives projects I undertook in the years following the completion of my MFA. In many cases there are threads that are continued from my undergraduate work and are still followed in current projects. There is even an uncomfortable foreshadowing of my post-Sandy photography in my work on natural disasters (Falling at His Feet) and the Atlantis project.
These projects were all shot with a large format camera, which I stopped using once I began Right Coast in favor of a more mobile approach. Many of these scans are quite old (and terrible) and were made with an early prosumer Epson flatbed, on which I scanned 11x14 images in two parts and then stitched together. At some point I'd like to rescan the old 4x5 negatives to produce quality images for this archive.
HOMELAND INSECURITY 2003
In 2003 I made a series entitled Homeland Insecurity, a play on "Homeland Security," the department created by the Bush Administration in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. As the Department of Homeland Security changed terror alert levels from yellow to orange to red and back again, I began thinking about how people might respond both psychologically and physiologically to a climate of fear. I staged scenarios for the camera in various New York City locations using friends and family as actors), depicting how behavior might break down or become erratic and how bodily dysfunction would belied internalized fear, stress, and paranoia.
FALLING AT HIS FEET 2004-2005
Acts of God. Natural Disasters. Wildfires. Tornado Alley. The language used to describe natural disasters and their causes seeks to allocate blame on a vengeful deity, errant Nature, an even more errant human hand. Our choice of language strives to mitigate our loss of control by implying causality, hoping to soothe our newfound fears of forces once perceived as benign or as working in our favor. Yet, in truth, in looking at the ashen hills near San Diego, CA or the topsy-turvy yards of Utica, IL it becomes clear that blame is irrelevant. What is relevant, it seems to me, is the loss of control itself, the utter absence of reason. This is written in a physical language that exists for months and years after a wildfire, mudslide, tornado, hurricane, flood, or drought. For those who have lived through such a catastrophe, the charred trunk of a cedar, even surrounded by weeds and wildflowers, is a reminder of the worst, or perhaps just of the inevitable. How do we manage to live amidst the damage and uncertainty? We can point a finger or we can struggle to adjust to living with the unknown.
THE WHOLE GREAT WORLD 2000-2002
The most marvelous is not
the beauty, deep as that is,
but the classic attempt
at the swamp's center: the
dead-end highway, abandoned
when the new bridge went in finally.
-William Carlos Williams
from "The Hard Core of Beauty"
ATLANTIS 2000-2002Staten Island, the least well known of New York City's boroughs, could be the lost island of Atlantis. This contemporary geography evokes that of the mythical past, to the extent that the "realness" of the present becomes inseparable from the predetermined course of the myth. To walk Staten Island is to hold a novel whose last page we've already read. Its seductions, banalities, and idiosyncrasies, taken in allegorical terms, bespeak a tale we've long known. The narrative is cursed with an awareness of the inevitable and no scene is without a double meaning. If Staten Island is doomed to the same fate as Atlantis, it is less out of greed for money or power than an unrelenting urge to preserve a precious way of life. No violent earthquakes or tidal waves will pull this New York borough to the depths of the sea; its main foe is obsolescence. The photographs of Atlantis occur during this attenuated process, in the Moment Before the Moment Before Civilization's End.