This project is named after Naturgemälde, one of Alexander Humboldt's seminal landscape drawings depicting a volcanic ecosystem. The German term literally translates into “painting of nature” but it also describes the interconnectedness of the natural world. Humboldt’s vision of an interdependent web of life is a metaphor for my own photography — as each one of my photographs becomes a constituent part of the portrait of my vision of nature as a whole. This is my kinship with Humbolt: engaging in a practice of discovery of natural phenomena and the belief that comprehending nature can only be accomplished through the imagination.
I am particularly interested in creating pictures that blur the line between (shared) reality, i.e. straight documentation and constructions born of my own personal vision. Through my process of selecting and rendering natural phenomena (as one might render an architectural model), I create images that border on the uncanny. For example, tension is intended between colors that one would expect to be found in nature versus what is created by my own hand. And I have found myself looking more closely at my subjects by making “zoomed-in” still life representation that are further disassociated from their “natural” state by the use of the vertical frame.
This work evolved from prior projects, including, Inspired by a True Story, a project where I drew on my architecture background to add constructed structures into benign landscapes, as well as my last project, Sublime Cultivation, where I sought out natural and man-made representations of the historical concept of the “sublime”. Now, in this most recent series, I’ve found myself personalizing the work by incorporating more of myself — hands and arms — as well as my wife and friends who accompany me on my photo trips. Bringing a participatory element to the surface of the images is a way for me to lighten the subtext of the sublime and celebrate the process of making itself. These conceits are further illustrated by incorporating gelled studio lighting in the photograph in an obvious way, or literally showing the lighting strobes.
This uncanny slippage between the object represented and its representation is likely an influence from James Casebere for whom I worked for several years. I also see my project as being situated in a unique space between other photographers as well. For example, incorporating myself and wife into the images has its own references in Callahan or Friedlander, while my appreciation for formalist landscape and “objectivity” refers to Watkins and Blossfeldt.