Assemblah 2016 – present, is a series of digital stitch-ups of landscapes. These are images composed through software, from a hand-full to several dozen separate photographs.
The process of making many slightly different images of a subject, then using software to reconstruct a grand scene from the parts is normally not problematic. If done conventionally, professionally, the process results are seamless and imperceptible in effect. The cognoscenti use digital tools and camera-handling-techniques as well as specific supporting hardware to create panoramic photographs of subjects without specialized cameras.
In Assemblah the same fundamental process takes place, but while the conventional intent is to perpetuate the singular and hermetic appearance of a photograph, this body of work attempts to break the homogeneity of the unified frame, while being undeniably “photographic”. I shoot hand-held while I wobble, wiggle, wander and fiddle during the process of shooting many adjoining frames of each scene. The rendition by the camera is mechanical and perfect while that by the man is flawed. The result is artesanal, hopefully seductive yet inexorably repellent.
Assemblah assails the naïve belief in photography by altering the semiotics we have come to expect in the medium:
- Dissimulating the hermetic, mechanical look-and-feel of camera based images
- Breaking out of the expected elegance of the image circle as cropped by the light sensitive media format, instead rendering ugly formats and impossibly irregular aspect ratios
- Falsifying objective reality
- Extending the lens’s depth of field
- Extending the lens’s field of view
- Replacing the singular focal plane found in all photographs with multiple focal planes within one image
- Showing movement in parts of a body while associated parts remain static with regard to a common reference
- Representing several moments in time, not a singular moment in time as convention holds
- Serendipitous distortion of figures
- Disjunction of planes
- Exploring the effects of algorithmic work in assembling one image from an imperfect pool of photographs
- multiple perspectives fused into one frame
- ‘irrational’ focus / out-of-focus within the frame
- attempting to re-create forms extending through many frames
i.e. These are assemblies of multiple images of one scene. This is nothing complex – software does the work of stitching the images together, for the most part.
What drew me to the method was the idea of making “a photograph” from many photographs. In a sense, probing the boundaries of how far I can stretch the vernacular use of photographs and still have what strikes us as “a photograph”.
I’ve long been an antagonist to photography. Or, rather, to our tendency to receive photography as hermetic truth, as proof, as objective. We usually believe that a photograph transcends the limitations of the hand and eye of the photographer while transmitting their mind’s truths and intent. As though, by merely standing in front of something and tripping the shutter, the photographer can and does create a record that has all of the ontological veracity of something mathematical.
My favorite example of this tendency in humans is the example of someone holding up a snapshot of someone and asserting, “that’s (so and so)”. This behavior is completely – seemingly – natural to us, and completely wrong. “That” is no more your aunt or parent or, whomever, than the word “pizza” can fill your stomach. It is but a piece of paper with patterns of highlight and shadow in which we recognize our own direct visual experiences. It is the very faithfulness of the facsimile on paper which lulls us into construing the rest of the lie for our selves.
Our mind passes through photographs as the line of sight passes through an opening in a wall.
Ask anyone to interrogate their assumptions about a specific photograph and they will likely agree that some of the “natural” assumptions we make about the image may not be the only way to interpret it. Yet, when unchallenged, we intuitively look at photographs with the tendency to hold no reserves and address ourselves to the image as though it were a mechanical transcription of ground truths at that fraction of a second when the shutter tripped.
This naivete, the compulsive seduction of the viewer, is deeply intriguing. Photography rides the natural biological channels of human perception and sensing and results in this seemingly autonomous response when looking at an image, “that’s Larry and Vivian”.
Well … isn’t it?