Promise Land and Photography
The images of Promise Land begin with the appropriation of free stock photographs, the kinds of generic pictures that bombard us with idealistic visions of the world, creating an illusion of promise that lived experience can rarely replicate. As a photographic theorist I'm interested in how ordinary images affect our perception of the world, and channel thought and opinion in ways we're often not cognizant of.
All pictures contain the politics of their makers. Stock pictures are produced with the politics of commodity, and create an unspoken impression that if we buy what those pictures are selling, we can embody the joy and paradise that their subjects depict. My goal was to push back against such pictures, rip the guts out, and re-author them in a way that moves them into a space of deeper meaning and poetic interpretation.
The way I make my work begins with the selection of such images and the manipulation of them in Photoshop. I then print the picture onto a paper surface that doesn't absorb the printer ink, allowing me to make marks in the wet ink, soften the picture, and blend the seams of my digital manipulations. When the ink is dry, I scan the picture back into digital space and work if further in Photoshop until I achieve a result that speaks to me.
The process to me is a means of "un-photographing", allowing me to make photographic work that frees the medium from it's traditional, burdensome relationships to truth and belief.
(I recommend you skip to the 1hr mark to listen to my conversation with David Campany, Director of Exhibitions at the International Center of Photography)
Promise Land and The Waste Land
The entirety of Promise Land is inspired by T.S. Eliot's Modernist poem, The Waste Land (1922), considered by many scholars to be among the greatest and most sophisticated poems of the 20th Century. The Waste Land is written in a fragmented, collage-like style, and reflects on a post-WWI Britain that struggled to find meaning while trying to pick up the pieces of the war's aftermath. It's a poem that searches for meaning while simultaneously understanding that none can be found.
Throughout The Waste Land, Eliot uses numerous allusions to stories of myth, belief systems, and contemporary life, creating a cacophony of voices that collide in a near-chaotic fashion. It's these literary strategies that I borrow from Eliot and translate into visual form.
Promise Land is positioned as a contemporary visual update to The Waste Land, and as we approach the 100-year anniversary of the poem's publication, I look to create a conversation between past and present to consider what in our world has changed, and what about our human experience hasn't changed at all.
Much of the work in Promise Land muses on a "post-truth" world, fragmenting cultures, and the search for spirituality and meaning in a world that prioritizes types of commerce and entertainment which project ideals that we can never live up to.
Promise Land IRL
Promise Land is is being published this Fall by Bruno Ceschel, Founder of Self-Publish Be Happy and a long-time cultural leader in the art photography world who is widely respected for his innovations in photobook publishing.
The book was made possible via a successful Kickstarter campaign in Spring 2021, which raised over $20,000 to raise funds for production from over 200 individual backers. The book was short-listed for the Images Vevey Book Award, and recently received it's first review on Elephant Magazine. The book will begin shipping to the US in November.
To learn more about the project, check out the Kickstarter campaign page, where you can watch a video of me talking about the work.