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D I G I T A L   W O R K S

Digital Photography
Instant, Dakar, Union

These works germinated from an earlier project that began as an artist’s demonstration against the war in Iraq in 2005. By taking individual photos of American soldiers killed in Iraq and dividing the space into strips it made all the participants equal by representation. Initially my concept was to embrace a zen look into the equanimity of death and it’s level playing field. There were no attachments to race, rank, gender, age, personality, etc. I created a contemporary sense of cubist space by dividing the composition into alternating linear bars containing the images of four individuals.

The early 21st century still shares the ephemeral unstability that was expressed and defined by the early cubists, particularly Braque and Picasso in their High Analytical Cubism. The photographic cubist space that I work with allows me to explore many different translations of images and situations, but maintains a constant shifting of perception that leaves no sense of a solid figure or ground. In some cases the image appears to merge into one being that gives another twist on the joining of the separate personas into 'one' figure. And just as the viewer puts it together into some kind of recognition the image shape shifts into another completely different construct.

I revisited the idea of this photographic cubist space with new intent. I used the portraits of four artists; two from the United States and two from South Africa. The images are a merging of time and space since the original photos come from diverse locations; Pretoria and Washington, DC. I brought them together into four compositions that were exhibited at the 'Off" venue for the Dakart Bienale in Senegal in 2006. The photos contain elements, or strips, of each artist but each image is rearranged so that a different ‘look’ is personified by the eyes, thus creating the composite four portraits. The flattened image allowed all the participants to be viewed simultaneously in the same space at the same time.

The collective rather than the individual is more an eastern idea than a western social model. By looking at the segments of the four individuals simultaneously in some ways become easier to see the differences and yet understand the connectedness because of the tight position of the 'sliced' portraits. The whole is the sum of the parts becomes a metaphor for the unified field of humanity. Again, I say the Zen or Tao can be used to look at to understand the larger context but in the end it all comes back to the equanimity of simply being human in a state of constant change. It becomes the dynamic of one culture bumping into another culture.

This dynamic lead me to the next series of Photographic Cubist Portraits that addressed the current struggles between the Technological and Industrial societies and the workers caught in the middle of identity and change. The photographs contain the portrait images of the following nationalities; Chinese, Indian, Hispanic and an Anglo from the United States. The title of the series is Union: Four Portraits and refers to the organizing of labor unions to achieve better working conditions and fair compensation for workers in the earlier industrial workforce. It also signifies in a general sense, a coming together of people and that perhaps we share more in common then our philosophical differences allow for. So this work makes a play between the tension of coming together and splitting apart by the very nature of the displacement of the work force.

I took a photo of my wife's brother Michael that captured his recompose as his lifeless body waited for transportation to the crematorium. This image became the starting point for the next series of Cubist Photographs.
The image made me reflect that we had just spoken with Michael earlier that evening and now it was impossible to do so. All of the sudden his gentle image conveyed something only a simple Zen look can conjure; there were no frills, no promises, just experiences that we carry and let go of as we slip into the next adventure. The young Vietnamese boy, a vivacious student, and the beautiful old woman complete with equanimity the shared venue of experience and recollection in a time of transition.

David Carlson







copyright David Carlson 2010