Discussion of Decennial Retrospective (cont.)

    The more documentary images of this exhibit are, not surprisingly, those taken the longest ago. While clearly documenting a well known slice of landscape under the warm Tuscan sun, "Toilers of the Fields" (1996) also reflects the influence of Vincent van Gogh on my photography. Although Madonna di San Biagio is the obvious focal point of this image, it is the farm laborers, tonally melded and spiritually rooted to the fields in the foreground, who make it work for me. It is, after all, their collective effort in bringing forth the bounty of the earth which makes possible the grander manifestations of man's presence elsewhere in this image.
    "Shadow Mirror" (1996), a fond memory of Monemvassia, Greece, and "The Louisbourg Cross" (1997), taken in Louisbourg Fortress, Nova Scotia, are perhaps the exhibit's only other, more nearly documentary images, both of which have their more personal counterparts elsewhere in the exhibit. To wit, "Shadow Feet" (2003) (including, on the left, those of my grandniece Jamie Ricksecker, on an amusement ride in Vallejo, California) is the foil for its Grecian counterpart, while "Two Geese, Mecox Bay" (1998) is the less obvious partner for the similarly brittle, fine textured Canadian scene. The bayscape (taken from the Long Island, New York home of my in-laws) symbolizes for me any long, monogamous marriage, where its partners no longer feel compelled to be physically close all the time but are still content to be together.
    "Long Gallery" (1996), while documenting a pre-reconstructed section of Fort Macon on one of North Carolina's many barrier islands, symbolizes different things to different people with its seemingly unending repetitive doorways. For me, the long gallery symbolizes man's limited and forever imperfect view of infinitude. A distant corollary to this image might be "Parallel Universe Synapse" (2002) where the individual in front of the stage, ignored entirely by the individuals on the stage, might as well be on another planet, or operating in a different universe altogether. With modern physics currently hypothesizing 16 or more dimensions for our own universe, who is to say whether or not I have captured here a fleeting glimpse of two universes briefly interfacing with, but unaware of, one another...
    Of all the means available to those who express themselves in two dimensions, I find portraiture the most challenging and the most difficult. Of the few portraits I have completed, that of "Amanda Hampton, Baker" (1997) is still one of my favorites. Her diminutiveness, in view of the massive tools of her trade around her, is charming and, in view of the many tempting fruits of her labor before her, paradoxical. Her demeanor, particularly the position of her hands and her averted glance, expressing at the same time her modesty and her pride, are endearing to me.
    Another Nova Scotia subject, "Ghost Fleet" (1997) is the first image on this web site to appear in more than one exhibit, only this time it is presented upside down from its original appearance as "Marine Terminal, Digby" in the "Taste of Nova Scotia" exhibit. I simply enjoy the image turned upside down and finally have a venue to present it in this somewhat less conventional way.
    "Daddy Bear" (1997) is an unmanipulated scene in our nephew Michael Demisay's home which struck me as a tongue-in-cheek reminder that exercise bikes do not always serve their intended purpose. In this instance the bike obligingly provides a workout for an oversized prize which itself serves as a loving reminder to a daughter of her father's prowess at the local carnival.
    "Comfort" (2000) is an even more spontaneous rendering of the mutual support between longtime friend Connie Clark, battling a serious illness at the time, and her devoted canine friend Lucy. It is hard to know who was comforting whom more...
    "Off and On" (1999) is one of a very few composite images (i.e., those composed of two or more negative images enlarged on the same piece of photographic paper) that I have made in a conventional (i.e., "wet") darkroom. As with the other composites which I have constructed in this manner, the negatives were made originally with a specific end result in mind. In this case, I was seeking understanding for the then imminent loss of my older brother Dan to a very aggressive brain tumor. The order of appearance of these paired images - off, then on - is the hopeful result of my inquiry.
    Self portraiture as a subject has come to me rather reluctantly over the years, but occasionally it does raise its ugly head. In the case of this "Self Portrait" (2003), I was struck by the pleasant realization that I am, after all, something of a shadow of my father, who died in 1982. While serving as an extra in our niece, Bernadette Demisay's thesis film ("The 5:22"), I walk along a railway platform in Union, Illinois wearing (as a prop and for the only time since his death) my father's fine old Homburg hat and, all of a sudden, there he is! My camera bag - an element peculiar to my own life - fused with my overcoat and, distorted by the low angle of the sun, lends a somewhat arresting uncertainty to the overall composition of this grotesque.
    The final three images discussed here share, in common, being made at our home of 20 years in Mason Neck, Virginia. "Memory's Face" (2001) features my wife Til reflecting upon images and memories of our courtship days.
    If nothing else, "Coke" (2002) serves as a reminder of the many unintended and frequently undesirable consequences of  humankind's time on this planet. In this case an old coke bottle, probably pitched into our pond decades ago, revealed itself at the height of a severe drought in our area recently. Being in a contemplative frame of mind at the time, I left it exactly as I found it and it has since been swallowed up by the pond once more. Perhaps it is meant to resurface one day as more food for thought for some future steward of this pond...
    Finally, "Open House" (2004) is singular thus far for being the only completely contrived and staged image in my entire portfolio. Anticipating the need for an invitation to an "open house," celebrating the completion of an addition to our home, I awoke one morning with this visual pun in mind as a subject for the announcement. The only truly false element of the image is the newspaper, as I rarely ever read them. Til's "hanging" of van Gogh's seascape at Saintes Maries is no accident, in view of my near obsession with his life and work. While operating, at my request, the cable release on my tripoded camera, our general contractor remarked that he had never had a stranger assignment!

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Exhibit Introduction

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