In the first case study, we looked at how my personal purpose, or framework of meaning, changed over those first few years of my journey into photography. Starting with a more common interest in just making a successful image other people would like and then moving towards using photography as a more personal form of expression. In fact, I might even consider it having moved towards being a form of personal exploration, something directed more inwards than outwards.
The image I posted in Case Study #1, Hogan, is an early example (1984) of where I was combining a more objective view with my interest in the spirit of the land, the sense of the metaphysical. The inclusion of the Hogan itself, a sacred dwelling, combined with the power of this place was the focus of this work. (Unfortunately, although my visits in 1981 and 1984 were incredible, returning there 30 years later, I found that the development and commercialization of the place, along with the incredible amount of haze that now hangs over the canyon, made it much more difficult to connect with the place as I had so automatically done on those earlier visits.)
But as I mentioned, I began to develop a desire to move away from the more objective image to something that would be more abstract. It isn’t that I hadn’t created abstract images all along, however, my interest in moving completely away from the objective image became more important to me.
Up until this time, I hadn’t really worked in series or bodies of work*. The work I had been doing, in my opinion, was all related and confining the work to a series just seemed redundant. I think it was the summer of 1988 that I actually determined that I needed to focus on a specific series of abstract images that was emerging from what I had considered more general work. While that work could certainly fit within my larger body of work, I was seeing how it could be more effective as a cohesive body that focused on a more specific set of concerns I had developed. These were not just the need to eliminate reference within my photographs but also my sense of how the land could mirror our human condition. This Idea, of course, was layered over my more deeply held purpose/Idea for my photography, to explore more deeply into the psyche through images that created metaphorical and/or metaphysical stimuli.
* Yes, I did create a series fairly early (1982-4), however, that was really an anomaly and the result more of those images just not fitting anywhere within my other work. But I will discuss that further in another case study.
The work, which the top image here is part, was completed in mid-1990. I actually thought the work was done in 1989. I should say here that it isn’t uncommon that after one completes a body of work or mounts an exhibition, that there is a time where things are not focused as one regroups. In this case, I was making another trip to photograph in early ’90 and had no idea what I was going to do–except not to work on that now done series. The exact opposite happened and I suppose with the release that came with thinking I was done, I did some of the best work on that trip. I tried to fight it at first but gave in after a few days where it was clear that what I was seeing couldn’t be ignored. Many images included in the earlier version of the series were replaced with the new work.
I had already, based on the ’89 version of the series, booked a show at a gallery that was to happen after that last trip. After seeing that show, the curator of photography at the Portland Art Museum called with an interest in acquiring several pieces for the collection and the inclusion in an upcoming show. He asked me if I had purposely sequenced the work in that order–a linear presentation–as he felt that the work traveled into a darkness in the first half and then emerged into a lightness and release through the end. I always curate how my work is presented but hadn’t thought of it in that way until he mentioned it. The work, in fact, had been done while I was debating, with a good deal of stress, whether to leave my career of 18 years and pursue photography full-time–which I had just done when the show was mounted. The series name, “Under Perfumed Skies” was something that came to me in recognition that the work was about a journey, one I felt to be somewhat intoxicating.
The entire series can be seen by clicking on the image above–or here– proceeding through by clicking to the right. The order here is how it was presented in that show and, later, at the Maryhill Museum in Washington, where the series was, again, shown in its entirety.