Friday, December 4, 2009

There are two ways of looking at the world. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The second is as though everything is a miracle -- Einstein

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sir, - I beg to bring to your notice the serious harm likely to come from the increasing popularity of photography. Since Mr. Talbot and M. Daguerre perfected their processes for fixing a living image on paper a few years ago, there has been an alarming increase in the popularity of this unnatural pastime. The stage has now been reached when permanent damage is likely to be inflicted not only on painting, engraving, and the arts in general, but upon industry, manners, and the home itself.

-- Unnamed Commentator, 1851

Nathan Lewis, Untitled, 2009

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Wreath of white flowers....For She Who Sleeps
-- Excerpt from a letter to a deceased child

Nathan Lewis, Untitled, 2009


The Hennepin History Museum is putting on a fantastic exhibit dealing with Victorian Funerary traditions, that will thankfully run through May 2010.

The current exhibit at the Hennepin History Museum (ends May 2010) gives patrons, guests and visitors a chance to examine something we sometimes forget: While traditions of the past might seem strangely different, people will always be the same. Then…as now…people want to honor and remember loved ones... Also on display are furnishings, mourning garments and jewelry from the museum’s collection, these artifacts from 1850 to now, show how mourning traditions have evolved over the decades. The museum presents the answers to such questions as why did people wear black for a year, and how did the expression of grief evolve in both Europe and America? This exhibit will bring you close-up to one of life’s most intimate topics; death.

It is an incredibly intimate show, with a long lasting impression. Contrasting the title, there is a great deal of humanity in the exhibit.
The mementos and artifacts are displayed in a most bizarre manner, it seems less curated and more hastily assembled. The lack of straight labels and track lighting have the opposite effect of what you might imagine, instead of creating a campy silly presentation devoid of serious contemplation...some how everything ends up looking more real and tangible.
It truly felt like this was created by a person in mourning concerned less with tidiness and more with loss.
The exhibit almost stands as a wake for a time past.

Exterminating the romanticization of the Victorian Gothic aesthetic, you see the objects as participants of true mourning, with very somber and honest purposes.

We are so familiar with seeing Post Mortem photographs in text books, reproductions, and as sensationalized Movie props that when viewing the Museum's particularly disturbing collection, the experience takes your breath away. Being a product of the Western death culture, I am more comfortable encountering it in a clinical and detached manner. To see the torn edges and handwritten notations was completely different than to read about it.

One must wonder if the souls of the tragically deceased are still inhabiting the images, locked behind a silver veil.

A remarkable show!

A particularly interesting photograph portraying a deceased mother holding her live baby.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

1) Studium: "meanings that are nameable," "given cultural meanings that we understand at once"

2) Punctum: "a personal memory based not on the public archive but a private repertoire," "stings the viewer...some detail (some accident in the photograph)"; "occurs when there is a match between a signifier in the scene (in the photograph), and a scene in the memory"

-- Roland Barthes

Nathan Lewis, Untitled (Deer), 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Nathan Lewis, Untitled, 2009

[Photography can]…allude to other levels of reality in which a subject might be depicted as existing in two or more places simultaneously…the medium is capable not only of faithfully recording images fixed in time and place but also of producing those that transcend such limitations and exist in a mysterious limbo.

-- Martin Friedman

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Brownie Holiday

Like most photographers I have a pretty ravenous habit of collecting old cameras, either for decoration or experimentation.
The term Bibliomania refers to someone who habitually collects books, so I assume I suffer from what can only be called "CameraMania"....unfortunately that sounds like a Geriatric Cruise theme! So in time I will think of a more appropriate name.

Recently I was shown this website, wherein the author collected old cameras, tested them, and shared the results. Junk Store Cameras

Needless to say I was inspired and wanted to start my own log of Camera experimentation!

For my first entry I wanted to begin with a camera very special to me, one that was given to me by my Grandmother, a Kodak Brownie Holiday.

Even though this is probably one of the most abundant "vintage" cameras you could ever find, this particular one is still very important to me.
It was produced from 1953 to 1962 and was widely popular. For my experiment I chose Efke R100 127 film, developed it in D76, and then scanned.

To me this Camera has an incredible look, it's somewhere between a true View camera and a LensBaby. The Depth of field just swirls away. Very unique looking results.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Memory demands an image
-- Bertrand Russell

Lewis', Sister and Brother, late 1980s

Everyone has a photographic memory. Some just don't have the film.
-- Stephen Wright

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

If light is not just inimical to the Latent Image, but can indeed destroy it, this is not simply because it is what renders manifest: if it did only this, it would not destroy the secretive, the one who remains hidden even when manifest...Light, what renders visible, manifest, can destroy the Latent Image, the secretive only because light is simultaneously the paradigm of the secretive...
-- Jalal Toufic, "(Vampires): An Uneasy Essay on the UnDead in Film," 2003

*I have replaced the word Vampire with Latent Image, the parallels are incredible.

Nathan Lewis, Untitled, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

In Photography there are no Shadows that cannot be Illuminated.
-- August Sander

Nathan Lewis, Untitled (Windigo), 2007

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

No matter how slow the film, the Spirit always stays still long enough for the photographer it has chosen.
- Minor White

New Images in Progress.
I'm working on combining aesthetics from prior projects with a more documentary approach.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

If you Die, You're Dead -- That's All.

We lived in a little two-room house. Had a wood stove that we cooked blackeye peas on. We ate so many blackeye peas that I never wanted to see another one. We even slept on ’em, laid our pallets on the pods of blackeye peas and hay. Your kids would cry for something to eat and you couldn’t get it. I just prayed and prayed and prayed all the time that God would take care of us and not let my children starve. All our people left here. They live in California. But we were so poor that we couldn’t have went to California or nowhere else.

We made good money pullin’ bolls [cotton], when we could pull. But we’ve had no work since March. When we miss, we set and eat just the same. The worst thing we did was when we sold the car, but we had to sell it to eat, and now we can’t get away from here. We’d like to starve if it hadn’t been for what my sister in Enid sent me. When it snowed last April we had to burn beans to keep warm. You can’t get no relief here until you’ve lived here a year

This county's a hard county. They won't help bury you here. If you die, you're dead that's all.

Quotes by and Photographs of Nettie Featherston

Images by Dorothea Lange

Monday, August 17, 2009

Shadow Writing
Damaged Writing

Henry Fox Talbot, Sciagraph, 1836

Cristian Schad, Schadograph, 1920

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Kodak Ghost Poems

Nathan Lewis, We are Building Ghost Towns, and I will Plant Birds, 2009

It is my belief that Photography and Spiritualism are deeply related. One medium intends to the revive the dead, whereas the other attempts to stop one from ever dying.
With either definition the fact remains that they both desire to arrest the evanescent reflections of the mind and tangible world, in hopes to prove one with the other.

Photography can "convince the unprejudiced inquirer or the rational and sincere believer, that is is impossible that his faith be false" - George Stein Keith, 1844

An interesting, if not anecdotal, fact is that George Eastman grew up in Rochester, NY where in 1880 he entered the Photography business and eventually created the Kodak camera.
As a boy he must have been aware of some of the most famous National celebrities living in his hometown, Kate and Margaret Fox.
The Fox sisters ushered in the phenomena of American Spiritualism. In 1848 the young girls heard unearthly raps communicating with them through their walls. From then on they were catapulted into a life of Spirit Communication on a national level. These sisters are probably the most influential figures in terms of American Spiritualism, and it goes without saying that Eastman holds the same title in American Photography.

There is no telling if Eastman ever met the Fox sisters, but it is not hard to imagine he was aware of them. Their performances and stories often made the Newspapers. That being said, it is impossible to say if the Foxs had a personal influence on Eastman, but shortly after his family's relocation to Rochester, his father passed away. It potentially could have been this loss that sent him in pursuit of a way to fix memory and deny death.

My point alone is at least interesting to note the physical and ideological proximity between these two mediums.

It is also fascinating that in 1826 the first theatrical performance in the city of Rochester was:

Thalw - Death alone can make me comply with such a demand.
Bar - No,no; There's to be no death: a temporary removal is all that will be required.
Thalw - Very well, but as for me, baron, I do not stir.
Blum - I'm fixed as her guardian angel.
Bar - Then matters remain as they were.
Thalw - What do you call removal?
Blum - The term is extremely vague
Bar - That question you may settle between yourselves.

Nathan Lewis, Untitled, 2007

Monday, August 10, 2009

Photography is a fad well-nigh on its last legs, thanks principally to the bicycle craze. Those seriously interested in its advancement do not look upon this state of affairs as a misfortune, but as a disguised blessing, insomuch as photography had been classed as a sport by nearly all of those who deserted its ranks and fled to the present idol, the bicycle!
- Alfred Stieglitz, The Handheld Camera - Its Present Importance, 1897

Photographer Unknown

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Some sitters reported that they felt drawn to the camera's eye, or unnerved by the experience of being photographed, as if they were being scrutinized, or compelled to act like a marionette... as though they are in, what was termed, a "Magnetic Sleep."

Nathan Lewis, The Medium, 2007

[Photographic] portraits have special powers, extending human sight into insight and revealing what ordinary vision cannot bring into focus...

Nathan Lewis, Basement Window, 2007

Belief in the extraordinary power of photography...was mixed with wariness...
- Mary Warner Marien, 2006

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mesmeric Revelations

Adam Fuss, My Ghost, 1999

A Doctor speaking to a Patient under hypnosis (mesmerized), 1844

Dr. P: Are you asleep ?

Vankirk (patient): Yes - No I would rather sleep more soundly.

P: Do you sleep now ?

V: I must die.

P: Does the idea of death afflict you ?

V: No - no !

P: Are you pleased with the prospect ?

V: If I were awake I should like to die, but now it is no matter. The mesmeric condition is so near death as to content me.

P: I wish you would explain yourself, Mr. Vankirk.

V: You must begin at the beginning.

P: The beginning ! but where is the beginning ?

V: You know that the beginning is GOD.

P: What then is God ?

V: I cannot tell.

P: Is not God spirit ?

V: While I was awake I knew what you meant by "spirit," but now it seems only a word - such for instance as truth, beauty - a quality, I mean.

P: Is not God immaterial ?

V: There is no immateriality - it is a mere word. That which is not matter, is not at all - unless qualities are things.

P: Is God, then, material ?

V: No.


P: I do not comprehend. You say that man will never put off the body ?

V: I say that he will never be bodiless.

P: Explain.

V: There are two bodies - the rudimental and the complete ; corresponding with the two conditions of the worm and the butterfly. What we call "death," is but the painful metamorphosis. Our present incarnation is progressive, preparatory, temporary. Our future is perfected, ultimate, immortal. The ultimate life is the full design.

P: But of the worm's metamorphosis we are palpably cognizant.

V: We , certainly - but not the worm


As the sleep-waker pronounced these latter words, in a feeble tone, I observed on his countenance a singular expression, which somewhat alarmed me, and induced me to awake him at once. No sooner had I done this than, with a bright smile irradiating all his features, he fell back upon his pillow and expired. I noticed that in less than a minute afterward his corpse had all the stern rigidity of stone. His brow was of the coldness of ice. Thus, ordinarily, should it have appeared, only after long pressure from Azrael's hand. Had the sleep-waker, indeed, during the latter portion of his discourse, been addressing me from out the regions of the shadows?


Hippolyte Bayard, Self Portrait as a Drowned Man, 1840

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Do we need our Eyes to See?

So preparing for class today it got me thinking a lot about light and the many ways we interpret, encounter, and possibly misunderstand it.

Light is a type of energy called "ElectroMagnetic Radiation."
Electromagnetic Radiation travels through space in packets/bundles called “photons.”
A “photon” is pure energy and has no physical mass, though they do have a fluctuating electromagnetic field.

This fluctuation is the basis of Color interpretation.

As you can see the frequency of the fluctuation moves from zero to its maximum position then to zero, then to its minimum and back up to zero. In perfect Parabolic form.
Human eyes "see" these wavelengths and associate them with colors.

An easy way to think about it is, imagine the color Red has less energy than blue, so its wavelengths will be shallower and shorter, while Blue Travels in a much more extreme arc. These differences in Energy are also known as their "Kelvin Temperature."

Consider the Visual Spectrum of light, it's based on the different Photon Frequencies and/or Kelvin Temperatures.

(Remember ROYGBIV?)

So all this information is nothing new, it's taught to grade school students. But notice what photon frequencies are above and beyond our visual spectrum.

Most notably below... FM/AM Radio.
I must ask you the question then, do you need your Eyes to listen to the Radio?

So if we agree that Visual Color travels more or less in the same vehicle as Radar or Radio, what does that mean?

Do we need our Eyes to See?

Think about Marine animals, bats, and the like who use sound waves to navigate their worlds.

So mechanically we know that you input a lot of information via the Rods and Cones in your retina...but is that potentially only a part of it?

Maybe that vibration, the fluctuation of photons is not only for the interpretation of sight but also spacial relationships.

You see because your Retina are not the only part of your body that reacts to Electromagnetic Frequencies. The Frontal Lobes of your brain are huge receptors for this type of energy.

So much so, that there were many tests showing that by bombarding those lobes with different EM frequencies (don't forget: same thing as color) a person could lose all physical relationships with the world, hallucinate, and in general become spatially and rationally disoriented.

The most famous of these tests was performed by Dr. Persinger and Dr. Koren with their God Helmet. The apparatus was so named because it seemingly gave participants Religious, Supernatural, or Extraterrestrial sensations.

Proving that there is AT LEAST a correlation between photon frequency and Interpretation.

These theories are 100% backed up by victims/participants of Paranormal occurrences which very often happen in areas of High Electromagnetic activity, whether it be Natural or Man made.
But that's another post for another time!

Back to the question at hand though...Do you need your Eyes to see?

I'll leave you only with a story out of Shropshire, England, and a man named "Dummy Mason."

Dummy was a patient in a psychiatric hospital, being "blind, deaf, and dumb." He was eventually put to work in the laundry department, when a doctor noticed something impossible: Dummy was folding all the towels and laundry in perfect Color coordination. The curious doctor tried to trick Mason and rearranged his order, only to find that he would simply put them back in the correct piles.
The doctor speculated that maybe he could "feel colors with his hands"...but as we've discussed I think it's more possible that Mason could "feel colors" with his brain.

Dummy Mason exhibited another talent shared by many visually impaired folks, the ability to navigate their environment with almost perfect accuracy. This ability has long thought to be a combination of a walking cane, developed sonar, and repetition.

Maybe it's time we explore other options. Maybe they are able to feel the vibrations of the world around them, using their brains.
Everything gives off an EMF, from Humans, Brick walls, cats, and trees...we just choose to give it a much more Poetic name... The Aura.