As we continue to log old-growth trees in the Pacific Northwest, the memory of their presence is dissolving into our culture, tamed and diminished, in the form of murals, toys, playground equipment, playhouses, and the like. These sterile tokens contrast with the 1000-year-old stumps decaying in our forest, eroding into haunted ruins. The Elastic Forest series explores how this distortion parallels our continuing alienation as we struggle to find renewal and our place in the natural world.
In Dyads from the Elastic Forest, I present coupled photos, asking the viewer to connect dissimilar images that call out for resolution. What does this puzzling situation stimulate in the psyche: what associations, stories, or memories arise to bridge that gap? Is each diptych simply a framework for viewers to flesh out as the moment requires, or does their narrative undergo a kind of alchemy, mixing with the residue of my own tenuous story? Perhaps the result is a layered fable that floats in a third space.
The title alludes to William Eggleston’s Democratic Forest. In his photographs, banal objects are often strangely magnetic to our projections while remaining anchored in the everyday and staying stubbornly themselves. In Dyads from the Elastic Forest series I also employ photography’s simple power of translation - its ability to uncover the potent metaphors hidden in the commonplace - in order to explore what I’m attracted to and learn what I’m thinking.
I respond to the way photographs transform mundane objects into open-ended, highly personal metaphors. These pictures of banal objects are strangely magnetic to our projections, even as their subjects stay anchored in the every-day and remain stubbornly themselves. Photographs both hold and reveal seamlessly mashed-up ambiguous thoughts, tentative ideas, and fleeting associations, provoking the viewer to seek resolution. This participation is always fresh as viewers bring their ever-changing concerns.
Taking photos is largely an intuitive action: certain objects seen through the viewfinder feel familiar - there is a kind of recognition, perhaps of something dimly remembered.
Sequencing images, however, is a more conscious participation with the images. When I order these carefully chosen photos, I wonder how the created narrative echoes through the viewer’s experience of the work. Are my images simply a framework, a focus for another’s projected psyche to flesh out as needed, or something completely new? Or is it that the audience’s created meaning undergoes a kind of alchemy, mixing with the residue of my own intended story? The result can then be a layered, ambiguous fable floating in an unnamed third space.
The title is a suggestion that the world we photograph is malleable, each of us using images to create meaning moment by moment, as needed. It is also linked to William Eggleston’s “Democratic Forest,” suggesting a different understanding of his “democracy of vision.”
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live” - Joan Didion
When I sequence carefully chosen photos, I wonder whose story the viewer is seeing. Can a series of images convey a personal story, and yet invite onlookers to author their own meaning? If these stories entangle and combine, whose story is it?
“The Elastic Forest” doubles down on these ambiguous questions. The only people in the series are my wife and her elderly father, so while the imagery is personal the subjects could be anyone, the settings anywhere, the underlying narrative familiar to many people.
The story is of our journey through a hard winter and the return of spring. The photos were taken on Bowen Island (our home on Canada’s west coast), Vancouver, and at my father-in-law’s home further inland. The series uses a simple central metaphor: loss conveyed by images of felled trees, their dissolution, and finding the means for tending to new growth.
I wonder how my narrative echos through the viewer’s experience of the work. Are my images simply a framework, a focus for projected psyche to flesh out as needed, or does the viewer make something completely new? My hope is that the imagery holds open a space that allows the audience’s created meaning to undergo a kind of alchemy, mixing with the residue of my intended story. The result can be a layered, ambiguous fable that floats in that third space, owned by neither the photographer nor the viewer.
The title, a nod to William Eggleston’s “Democratic Forest”, is a suggestion that the world we photograph is malleable, each of us using it to create meaning moment by moment, as needed…” in order to live.”