My work is centered on narrative: both implied and explicit; narrative that is manifested in emotional, formal, aesthetic, intuitive, and intellectual expression; and narrative as an evocation of action—in this case, photographic action.

 

The raw material for this body of work is found, snapshot photography.  These images, largely from the 1980's and later—the last gasp of the analog snapshot—are generally overlooked in the current vogue for collecting vernacular photography. Such collecting has fetishized the snapshot as an art object (albeit an unintended or inadvertent one).  These "late" snapshots betray little of the charm, humor, and playfulness found in the snapshot genre at its zenith (the 1920's-1940's).  Instead they tend to exude banality, the image rendered interesting only through the distance of years and the irony that time imparts.  I am drawn, in many instances, to images that would have been discarded by the picture-taker: those that are out of focus, inexpertly composed, blanched by a too-close flash, etc.  It is in these "mistakes" that the concrete nature of the snapshot—the object that serves as an aide-memoire, a commemorative artifact that has a distinct function in the world—is left behind and the image transforms itself into an abstract field of color, shadow and light, or evokes a potential narrative event far from the intent of the original maker.

 

Thus the work evokes speculative narrative, not by asserting the primacy of the individual image as an artifact valuable in and of itself, but rather as the product of the combination of a number of appropriated photographic artifacts placed in dialogue with each other (thus my use of the word "conjunction" to provide a framework for experiencing the work).  It is within these dialogues—some merely formal (on a purely aesthetic level), some whereby a relationship between coupled images is made clear, but many where there may seem to be a disjunction or disconnect that forces the viewer to make an imaginative leap in order to understand the coupling—that narrative is evoked and stimulated. It is this last which is my primary goal as an artist: to make the viewer an active participant in the work by forcing him/her to enter the world of the work and to forge connections and create narratives that are compelling, mysterious and durable.

 

The world portrayed in these works is decidedly not our world, yet I hope it speaks to us viscerally and immediately on some imaginative level.  It is intended to present what I would call a "third reality": not a document of its time, nor a document of our current time.  Rather these works are evocations of that liminal space where past and present intersect and create an emotional bridge into the subconscious which feels as immediate as it does prescient.

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artist's statement: tight. word. lit.

© 2015 nigel maister all rights reserved