Projects // Motion Studies

My portfolios titled “Motion Studies,” shot while traveling, capture the landscape around us during our constant journeys from place to place.  As we speed by, the scenery is blurred and fractured, creating an apt metaphor for our relationship with reality:  we are partially connected to and partially dissociated from our surroundings, and we simultaneously experience a sense of detachment from our environment and a sense of opportunity about where our travels may take us.

As Roland Barthes writes in Camera Lucida, all photographs are ultimately a reminder of our own mortality.  According to Barthes, the compelling nature of photographs is due in large part to their unique treatment of time:

In front of the photograph of my mother as a child, I tell myself: she is going to die: I shudder…over a catastrophe which has already occurred.  Whether or not the subject is already dead, every photograph is that catastrophe.

In the Motion Studies portfolios, the manner in which solid objects break apart and dematerialize doubly emphasizes the ephemeral nature of the world around us – and our own lives.  And the pervasive blur engendered by rapid travel is a constant reminder of our doubt, incertitude, and ambiguity in the face of this threat.  If travel can be thought of as a metaphor for the course of our entire lives, then these photographs – fraught with a strong sense of flux and instability – are photographs of our most vulnerable moments.

But these split-second glimpses provoke an intense confrontation not only with our fears, but our dreams and desires.  Despite their drab and disconnected origins, the photographs nonetheless possess a sense of opportunity.  From the right vantage point and in the right light, even the most mundane location reveals a quality of depth, activity and meaning.  By exploring the possibility that is found in lonely and disconnected environments, I am also exploring how we can connect authentically with other people and how we can overcome obstacles to achieving our potential.  The paradox that I have found — of intimacy borne out of isolation and clarity borne out of distortion — is still a partial mystery.

The Motion Studies portfolios are fundamentally a product of current technology and a musing on the role of the individual in contemporary culture. However, the work also contains clear references to other historical moments, including cubism and even futurism.  In the tradition of cubism, the images expose more than one vantage point at a time and exist on the very edge between representation and abstraction.

As Leonard Shlain makes clear in Art and Physics, there is a strong association between the themes of cubism and the advent of the theory of relativity.  Although they did not recognize it themselves, artists such as Picasso and Braques presaged Einstein’s discoveries with works that, for the first time in the history of Western art, allow us to witness different facets of an object simultaneously – without moving around the object in sequential time.  The chaotic break-up of the image in the Motion Studies portfolios similarly discards classical renderings of time and space.  It also alludes to the findings of quantum physics, which reminds us that objects that appear fixed and durable are filled with empty space.  Even though many of the objects in these photographs are structurally solid, they fracture, bend, and break into smaller particles in rapid motion. This parallels the wide-open space and frenetic activity that we now know exists at the subatomic level.

I first began producing the Motion Studies portfolios in 2002, working with film in a traditional darkroom.  In more than a decade of work, I have produced dozens of Motion Studies, the most recent of which were created digitally.