REMEDIES AND CURES
A few years ago I started collecting vintage 19th and early 20th century medicine bottles. The uniquely shaped bottles are made of handmade glass that contains bubbles, cracks and other imperfections. Many of the bottles are embossed with the name of the product or a company logo. On the inside, the glass is stained by the chemical compositions of the original contents. The outside is often crusted with dirt from decades of being buried in the ground or hidden away in storage.
I photographed these bottles in total darkness and painted them with a flashlight during a 30 second exposure. The images are printed using the carbon printing process on archival cotton rag paper. Carbon is one of the most archival digital black and white printing processes and it results in an extraordinary range of subtle tones.
In the summer of 2014 I moved from San Francisco, California, to Bend, Oregon, in search of a quieter life. My new home is just a few minutes away from the Deschutes River, which is a main source of water for Central Oregon. The river begins at Little Lava Lake in the Cascade Mountains and flows north for 250 miles, where it empties into the Columbia River. I started taking regular walks along the river to establish some familiarity with a completely new landscape. These photographs are a record of my first year in Bend.
The photographs in Nest are about our primal need to create a home wherever we are. In San Francisco, there are pockets of nature where people and animals seek refuge. I’m attracted to wild places, particularly the caves and nests that appear in the overgrown areas of Golden Gate Park. It’s often difficult to tell if these caves formed naturally or if someone intentionally carved out a space. A beam of sunlight, a gap in the foliage or the curve of a tree trunk might draw me in. But I rarely venture past the entrance.
Before the arrival of Europeans, the San Francisco peninsula consisted mostly of sand dunes and grassy hills, and was occupied by indigenous Ohlone/Costanoan people. In 1776, the Spanish established the Presidio along the northwestern part of the peninsula as an outpost for the Spanish military. In 1821, Mexico declared independence from Spain and the Presidio was transferred to Mexico. The United States took over the Presidio in 1847, during the Mexican-American war. In the late 19th century, the U.S. Army began planting dense forests of eucalyptus, cypress, and pine trees to provide wind protection and to distinguish the post from the rest of the city. Over the years, these forests have become overgrown and mysterious, suggesting layers of presence and transformation.
These photographs are part of an ongoing series of landscapes taken in and around San Francisco with pinhole cameras that I have constructed from tin cans. I usually go hiking with about 15-20 cameras in my backpack, each loaded with one piece of film. When I have made an exposure with every camera, I head back to the darkroom to develop the film. Each photograph reflects the unique characteristics of the camera with which it was created. Exposure times range anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes, and I handhold the camera during each exposure. My movement is recorded on the film along with the movement of the trees and the light. In some photographs, elements of the landscape may be recognizable, while other images hover on the edge between the familiar and the mysterious.
My self-portraits combine pinhole photography with improvisational performance, and stem from the idea that everything we experience is stored somewhere in our bodies. Movement is one way to access and give visual form to what lies beneath the surface of the skin. The making of these photographs is an exploration of the nature of each movement and where it originates internally.
Because of the unpredictable nature of pinhole photography, there is no way to really know how an image will turn out. I don't usually begin with a clearly defined idea. The images often reveal stories that may or may not have been known to me previously. That doesn't mean that they aren't my stories. Often the body remembers what the mind has forgotten.
The pinhole camera is low-tech; it is the most basic tool for making a photographic image. There is no lens to interfere with the light as it travels from the subject to the film. Because there is no viewfinder through which to preview the image, it's a relatively blind process.
The element of time in pinhole photography allows something to arise that might never be revealed by modern photographic technology. The long exposure times give me an opportunity to explore the space in front of the camera. I may have the impulse to move, or I may choose to remain still — although the body is never completely still, and even the smallest movements leave traces on the film.