When I was young, I often went camping in the mountains of southern New Mexico. One of the strongest memories from those trips is being absolutely terrified of whatever was beyond the light of our campfire. It didn’t help that my older brother, Norman, and his friends told me horrific stories! During those sleepless nights, I would lay awake, convinced that some murderous renegade or rabid coyote was just waiting to pounce.
I’m sure this has something to do with why I started this project. In some ways, I think that I’m dealing with the childhood fear of being out in nature in the dark. As it turns out, the first image I shot in this series (Untitled #1) was photographed in a place you would have never found me as a kid!
One of my motivations in making these pictures is curiosity. When I bring this light to a subject that interests me, I find out things that I didn't know before. Of course, this is true of many photographers, but for me it is heightened by the fact that I am creating the light, which transforms the reality into something else altogether.
In my process, I cannot see or evaluate the image, as I’m in the dark and the images are a result of a building up, or gathering, of light. Normally, when using artificial light, especially light painting, one tries to be consistent with direction of light in order to make the lighting appear as natural as possible. In this landscape work, I’m not overly concerned with this, and, in fact, I’m interested in the interplay between the reality of the scene and the purposeful artificiality of the lighting.
The images are, in one sense, a furthering of the “opposites are one” concept explored by Wynn Bullock, whose work is a real inspiration to me. Bullock used scale and tonality to advance the notion that “opposites” can enhance and magnify each other, and in fact are often harmonious.
In my work, these opposite elements are more nebulous, and they exist on several levels. An undeniably existent scene, combined with the illusory nature of the lighting, sets up a resonance in the interaction between the real and the unreal.
For me, there is a spirited glow to these images, yet at the same time, a sense of stillness and a quietness which I find evocative and beautiful.