2020 Exercising during Covid Isolation
The images from 2020 were improvised picture-making exercises from Covid isolation. Luckily, my world has been full of changes, inconveniences and worry, not suffering, loss and bereavement. Quarantine, lock down, shelter in place – whatever you want to call it – snuck up on me. By the time I realized that “summer vacation” was cancelled, and I should now be improving my home and garden, fussing over my sourdough starter and stockpiling toilet paper instead of walking the beach as planned, it was too late. I must say, I never thought we’d see a shortage of composted manure. The two Covid Garden triptychs here were originally diptychs. It wasn’t until the summer became record-breaking hot and scary dry that I added the middle panel – the bones. The backdrop for these photos is a turn of the century 8 X 10 film holder. The little (2 ½ inch) square plates of food were also inspired by our Covid spring. Store shortages of hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, and Lysol almost made sense. But flour? Grocery shopping involved the luck of the draw. Will there be asparagus? Who hordes asparagus? I call this series Slot Machine (another game of chance). I didn’t realize until later that vintage slot machines were sometimes called “fruit machines” because they featured fruit symbols (or perhaps it’s cryptomnesia). The last set of images I call Objects in Repose. By August I was thinking about simplicity, tranquility, rest and balance because that’s what my mind needed more than anything (I don’t think I need to explain). As I arranged the objects I hit upon the idea of a mandala. Carl Jung said that a mandala symbolizes “a safe refuge of inner reconciliation and wholeness.” Safe refuge…
2018/2019 Uncle Wiggily
Uncle Wiggily is an elderly rabbit and he has rheumatism. He needs to see a doctor. Players advance along a track from Uncle Wiggily’s Bungalow to Dr. Possum’s House, meeting other furry and feathered friends along the way. That’s the premise of the Uncle Wiggily Game. Made by Milton Bradley, this board game was first marketed in 1916. The Uncle Wiggily Game was based on a series of children’s books written by Howard R. Garis featuring Wiggily Longears and his nurse, Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy. Garis supposedly wrote an Uncle Wiggily story every day (except Sundays) for more then 30 years, amassing a collection of more than 15,000 stories and 35 volumes. My edition of the game looks like it dates back to the beginning – the board and cards are crudely printed and now well worn. A few years ago I started including Uncle Wiggily game cards in an ongoing series of images that feature the carcasses and bones of animals I have come by in my daily wanderings around rural Connecticut. The quaintness of the game seemed like an apt foil for my “natural history specimens” (which, being freshly dead, are not so cute). I’ve long been fascinated by natural history illustration and man’s curious relationship with the animal kingdom. We domesticate and adore animals. We breed, wear and eat animals. We hunt them for sport. We vivisect and otherwise employ animals in laboratory science. We cage them in zoos. We sentimentalize and anthropomorphize animals. Could there be a relationship more fraught with contradiction?
I begin the picture-making process by selecting and arranging my “specimens” and “artifacts” on a horizontal surface with the camera above pointing down. These images are not collage – they are fully constructed before the camera and I rarely crop in post-processing. I shoot with a macro lens and use a process that is unique to digital photography: focus stacking. Focus stacking software was developed for science and research and allows a macro photographer to shoot multiple frames each focused on a different plane in space and then merge the exposures to create an image with extended depth of field. After the objects are arranged and lit, I make up to 30 exposures each focused on an incrementally different spot in front of the lens. While focus stacking is tedious, it provides exceptional clarity from the top (objects closest to the lens) to the bottom (objects farthest from the lens). The resulting images are strikingly detailed and intriguingly un-photographic.