Portfolio - Surface/Tension

Science and art are “both regimes of knowledge, embedded in, but also constitutive of, the broader cultures they inhabit” (Caroline A. Jones and Peter Galison, Picturing Science, Producing Art).

 

These recent works, consisting of large scale cyanotypes and both double exposed and partially destroyed large format negatives, are my attempt to step away from a way of knowing embedded in science, a knowing that is laid out in numbers, in charts, in the quantifying of the world, and step into a realm of knowledge that is intuitive and visceral.  Sometimes words, even in all their abundance and pliability, are not enough to show deep truths.

 

Anxiety and depression are easy to miss.  They don’t show up on the surface.  They sit beneath the skin.  The more these impairments of my body began to affect my life, the more I felt connected to Blacks Run and its own impairment.  I began to see these impairments as a product of modern life, of our attitudes and behaviors towards the land and ourselves.  Not only did my physical problems become intimately connected with Blacks Run in my own mind, but the pollution and degradation showed metaphorically my physical and emotional difficulties.

 

The history of large format photography of the body and the landscape is rooted in concepts of the ideal.  These images, generally enacted by men, set up a relationship where man is the dominant, the assertive, the controller, and woman and feminine nature are passive, are what is acted upon by the male gaze and the camera as the extension of that gaze.  I subvert this history by using large format to take pictures of my own body as it is, superimposing it over the impaired body of water I study.  I further destroy the sanctity of the large format image by soaking the negatives in water collected from Blacks Run, turning the stream from passive to active.

 

The large cyanotypes bear a direct imprint of my own body, and the paper, washed in the stream, holds relics of the water and shore.  Exposed over maps of the stream, they reference the effect of history on our modern views and feelings.  Blacks Run and its environs seem to run through my body as well, as if the muscles and blood vessels are traced in a history of misuse and neglect.      

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© 2023 by JACK SMITH PHOTOGRAPHY

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