looking/longing on view Fall 2007

“looking/longing is simple in its premise,  offering a phenomenal experience of looking and a visual meditation on the potent power of the medium of photography.

We absorb our surroundings by reading clues of light bouncing off objects, our subconscious quietly processing the scope of our vision. When a person, landscape or object is immortalized through a photographic process, we may be enticed to look. We could be attracted just to know why the subject is significant to the photographer. If we are stirred, our attention held, a certain sensuousness of the medium and subject could continue to embrace our gaze to entice a deeper study.

Sensitive silver salts exposed to light will congeal to express a fugitive instant in two-dimensional form; the black and white negative: white values become dark and dark ones bright. A fertile moment condensed, framed and flattened—mediated. Complex worlds are pressed into these thin sheets of film.

The viewfinder brings into reach news of the nearby and faraway. Striving to read the history told by the image, we consider ourselves witnesses to times and people lost to us without the magic of photographic reproduction. For more than a hundred years, ‘we’ have come to know the ‘other’ and they us through the photograph. We allow ourselves to step into homes, spaces, dreams, histories.

Private and public spaces retain or create intimacy through the photograph. We become comfortable. The eye behind the camera directs our gaze, but in all fairness to the subject we cannot hold its truth as our own. Seeing is such a personal endeavor, eh? We might register the photographer’s point of view, but how we approach a photograph depends much on our personal visual histories. We are creatures who like to look, to watch, to stare even. We want to trust in the photograph, especially when beauty—qualified by the eye of the beholder, of course—is involved.

Ah, beauty—we fall all over ourselves to witness it, to gaze in awe and reverence. Its sweetness can be seen in so much of life: the soft curve of a back; the expression of spirituality; the open landscape; and youth. There is a strange flipside to such loveliness in the surrender to aging and mortality. Through the lens a mundane subject can become spectacular, elevated to the sublime. A landscape can become a mirror to hope. Sometimes the subject looks back through the frame, literally or figuratively, to step into the world of flesh—tugging at the gut, pulling at baser instincts. A glance intended for someone else can slice into a place that frames questions of knowledge and desire. Does the viewer have a sense of dissatisfaction in not being able to replicate that first look of the photographer? May be looking again, and again, one can slip into the image.”

-Lisa Alembik, Dalton Gallery Curator 2002-2013