Half Of Two: One
Where does the essence of a human being reside? All of us boast the power of reason that sets us apart from the rest of the living world, but what makes one person singular among many? You might argue that defining singularity is a subjective matter. Perhaps it can be defined in mathematical terms by looking at the meaning of "one.” Defined as an integer that follows zero, it precedes two. One is the first non-zero number of all the natural numbers. In similar fashion, we follow others and precede those yet to come. We think ourselves to be first among the group. We have, however, the tendency to deconstruct dichotomies in the human condition to explain the divisions and inequalities we see. Simply explaining what is in front of us by defining which opposite it belongs to misses the point of what makes each of us who we are. Singularity depends on the combination of many opposites as well as on the lens through which we see them. There is always singularity and only our biases allow or deny observation.
Half Of Two: One is my vision of humanity. To express the human condition is the soul of photographic art.
I saw an attractive woman, self-assured, walking through a gauntlet of ordinary faces. In her wake she leaves behind the stunned expressions of police officers agog at the momentum of her stride. I was able to fix that exact instance – the woman’s casual movement, the late afternoon light bouncing off police caps like their excitement, the woman’s detachment from unwelcome male eyes – in a frame of time without judgment. A moment later and the woman is out of the frame and the moment is lost forever with only memory to retrieve it. “Photographic memory” is an ongoing project, framing and composing infinitesimal occurrences that tell enigmatic stories. Glimpses – whether of an old man's stare on a busy sidewalk, a little girl's gaze on a bus, or a man sitting in the middle of a street – no longer – belong to memory; they are now images for all of us to contemplate.
In Cusco, Peru the faithful claim that the effigy of Christ held off an earthquake that was threatening the city over 350 years ago. Ever since, the locals have been paying homage to the image of the Lord of the Tremors or Taitacha Temblores, as it is known locally. This celebration is a peculiar syncretism of Andean religions and Christianity. The effigy of the Lord of the Tremors is carried aloft in a procession through the streets in the same manner that the Incas paraded the mummies of their lords many centuries earlier. Petals of ñucchu flowers are scattered by the faithful over the venerated effigy to symbolize the blood of Christ. In similar fashion the Incas used the same crimson flower as an offering to their gods. All the careful elaborations of this ceremony are perfect expressions of an earnest attachment by the people of Cusco to the tradition and mystic significance of every detail in an honored ritual. To honor the procession with my camera was a privilege. Here is a profound expression of devotion and prayer which challenges the skeptical and jaded modern eye.
Prosperity produces faster and more beautiful machines that engulf the urban landscape. It provides gadgets that inflate our sense of self and induce conformity. It drives us to do as others do. Apathy takes over as a narcotic blocking the finer nerves and senses of our soul. Our outer layer eventually becomes more important than our inward fiber; outer show masks inward void. We notice others but do we actually see them? Lacking acute sensibility, we often ignore the less fortunate that inhabit the urban medium with their pathetic images. We see the beggar sitting on the sidewalks talking to himself for there is no one paying attention to him. With supplicant eyes and vacillating lips begging for alms; we pass him by. We neither like nor dislike him. We ignore him with tediousness, often callousness and always with indifference. This is my oldest project, showing that in the city and in the company of others; the smelly noise of urban life camouflages our own indifference to everything and everyone that surround us.
I am interested in investigating the everyday routines of people in New York City and everywhere else. The subway, for example, provides a great jumble of humanity unposed and with their "mask off,” as Walker Evans would say. Here in this underground world is an opportunity to search for a full range of human emotions. My goal, though, goes beyond the search for the candid portrait; in the subway the shadowed light, mechanical noise and regimented movements of the passengers makes everyone anonymous. Yet if we look closely enough we can see distinctly. And this distinctness seen against the backdrop of anonymity is my photographic intention.
To observe the forward movement of organized people in costume dancing and singing can set off yearnings in us to belong to a tightly-knit group. During a parade people are unguarded and preoccupied before it starts by a great deal of preparation. The overall spectacle is frequently mesmerizing and the photographer, to be mesmerizing, must first be mesmerized.
In their remonstrations protesters express themselves in ways ranging from the forebodings of a lone preacher announcing “The end is at hand” to mass gatherings attempting to influence public opinion and policy. Individuals from different economic levels, religious beliefs and social circumstances unite. Is the camera observer or partisan? Is the viewer bystander or participant? Sometimes I know and sometimes I don’t know medium from message, form from content, appearance from so-called reality. The photographer’s dilemma indeed. The photographer can show that he is not alone when contemplating that recurring divide.