From the Shadows - The Rockwell Museum, Corning, NY, 2021
From the Shadows highlights the hidden diversity of our region and honors the unsung heroes of a welcoming community. A series of 30 photographic portraits informed and shaped by the community, From the Shadows is a contemporary response to FLX Kodachrome: National Geographic Photography of Nathan Benn. Each uniformly sized work eliminates any sense of hierarchy and is grounded in the natural and built landscapes of the Finger Lakes region.
The people depicted honor their ancestors and carry on those stories. They tackle the greatest public health crisis in a generation. They redefine our relationship to the land. They respect the deep cultural heritage of our region. They reclaim historical narratives. They exalt in the radiant beauty that flows from one of the Chemung River Valley to the other. They stand up for voting rights. They tell us that all our welcome here. They innovate, lead, and steward. They care. They host and give comfort. They march to proclaim that black lives matter. They love. They make. They do. They amplify and elevate. They protect. They serve when others won’t. They draw light from the darkness and I’m honored to tell their stories.
From the Shadows was on view June 11 - December 31, 2021.
I have long been obsessed with time. From being born into the transitory world of a military family to discovering the wonders of the sacred and profane as an undergraduate to now being a father to my two children, I can no longer remember a moment when I wasn’t acutely aware of time and all that comes with it - the longing to reclaim an elegiac past that perhaps never was, the struggle to live fully in the present moment, and the haunting solitude of knowing that one day I’ll permanently run out of time. It’s no surprise then that I find solace in photography, and in particular, people-centered long exposure photography for it offers a direct refutation to my own conflict with time and to the philosopher Heraclitus’s words that “you can never step into the same river twice”.
From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to the waters of Ithaca Falls, Out of Time features people set in long exposure against both static and moving environments. Time, and our relation to it, is manifested to a degree that nature never fully intended, for within each scene, a multitude of moments and lives exist. Past and future converge on an infinite present as the people featured in each image act as surrogates for my own, personal inability to counter the effects of time. While I cannot alter the passage of time, I can for them. And in having stepped out of time, they act as a rebuttal to Heraclitus and an affirmation to the notion that we can not only step into the same river twice, but we can step in again and again and again.
Through my photography I hope to capture the beauty and sanctity of the present moment, and in doing so, to ask the viewer to engage in rather than disengage from the world around them. By presenting life through a different set of lenses, I hope to introduce others to new perspectives and a world previously unseen.
When my wife and I first moved back to Corning, people would often ask how we liked living here. But in the asking there was always coded language - how were we surviving, why would we leave the life of ex-patriot travelers, and wasn’t our now permanent residence one step removed from a Siberian gulag.
But a truth lurked in the undercurrent, hiding in the murky depths, and I found myself struggling with the conflicting notions of finding a singular place in the world while seeking new ones out. Did I wish to experience the exoticism of a life traveling abroad or did I want to die old and well-remembered in a town I call my own?
In my first solo exhibition, Home, I seek to reconcile this conflict, to show that these are not contradictions, they are not mutually exclusive and endlessly pulling against the other, but rather, flowing together as one.
To paraphrase Gloria Steinem, we tend to think there are two choices in life: settling down or traveling. But, birds need a nest and they still fly. She realized it wasn't either/or - it was both.
I too have come to this conclusion, that they are not only complementary, but essential to giving my life meaning and fulfillment. And as this duality comes into focus, I see these two notions as not only essential, but as merging and coalescing into a definition of home that embraces both a stroll down Market Street and a walk down the passport line in Ataturk airport.
The images selected in Home best represent the mergence of these definitions. From the banks of the Chemung River to the shores of the Indian Ocean, these photographs showcase that which I love of this region, that which this region has given me, that which I hold most dear to my heart, and that which connects all in harmonious spirit. They are the people, places, and moments that endure in my heart.
I hope that these photographs will allow the viewer to reflect on their own definition of home, to see our interconnectedness to the outside world, and ultimately, to see their home in a new light. As the viewer awakens to the beauty that flows through the heart of the Chemung River Valley and beyond, I hope, as Hemingway once wrote, they will feel their heart beating against the pine needle floor of the forest.
In From Whence We Came, I draw my primary inspiration from John F. Kennedy, Jr’s speech before the 1962 America’s Cup in Newport, RI:
“I really don't know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it is because in addition to the fact that the sea changes and the light changes, and ships change, it is because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it we are going back from whence we came.”
The son of a Coast Guardsman, the water has always been in my life and exists heavily in themes in my photography and writing. From the ever changing meanderings of the Chemung River to the salt marsh fed waters of the Savannah Low Country to the glacial echoes of an age long since passed to the languid surf of the Pacific Ocean, this exhibition seeks to highlight the diversity of waters that have called to me and continue to do so into the present day.
In these waters I find solace in their ever welcoming arms, a calming of the soul. I hope the viewer can also bask in these waters, to become aware of the beauty that flows through them, and that they too will seek a return from whence they came.
In The Light of Other Days, I draw my primary inspiration from the poem Oft, In the Stilly Night by Irish poet Thomas Moore:
Oft, in the stilly night,
Ere slumber’s chain has bound me,
Fond memory brings the light
Of other days around me;
The smiles, the tears,
Of boyhood’s years,
The words of love then spoken;
The eyes that shone,
Now dimm’d and gone,
The cheerful hearts now broken!
Thus, in the stilly night,
Ere slumber’s chain hath bound me,
Sad memory brings the light
Of other days around me.
When I remember all
The friends, so link’d together,
I’ve seen around me fall,
Like leaves in wintry weather;
I feel like one
Who treads alone
Some banquet-hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled,
Whose garlands dead,
And all but he departed!
Thus, in the stilly night,
Ere slumber’s chain has bound me,
Sad memory brings the light
Of other days around me
From soaring clouds stretching out from an unseen singularity to the salt marsh fed waters of my Low Country birth to the lovers standing before glacial fed waterfalls to the echoes of an airplane fading through the sky, the black and white photographs presented here are quite literally, the light of other days, the manifestation of the past as present.
Sometimes stretched across a period of time through long exposure methods or sometimes a specific moment, these photographs actualize the past and allow us to reflect upon the poem’s elegiac words.
Like a surrogate memoir, this exhibition seeks to evoke memories, places, and times that are no more. And as we think upon this past, we are confronted by all that comes with it – the radiance, the darkness, the joy, the sorrow, that which we still embrace, that which we cannot let go of.
And more often than not, as is the case upon the narrator’s death bed, we become consumed by the past. It bullies us down a crumbling path of misdirected nostalgia and we become forever displaced in a labyrinth of an unattainable ideal.
But perhaps we decide to heed the poem as a cautionary tale and rather than engage in a fruitless exercise in longing, we embrace the light and let it shine upon us. In doing so, Oft, In the Stilly Night is no longer an elegy, but a devotional to embrace all that is around us so that the beauty and the sanctity of the present moment washes over us. And when this occurs, we find equal fulfillment in both the photograph itself and the act of viewing it, and we learn to more fully live in the illumination of the present.
Processed from digital files, these photographs are printed using a silver-based emulsion process on Ilford Black & White panchromatic, resin-coated paper with a hundred year archival rating. With a time out of time quality and an ability to reveal details and elements often hidden in color photography, black & white proves ideally suited for bringing the past forward into startling clarity.