Can you talk a little about the role that land plays in these pictures? Obviously the title makes reference only to the sky and the sea, but it seems to me that the elusive angular smudges of land in these photos give the sequence a sense of time passing and in some strange way provide a kind of anchor even in its near total absence…
I was working as a sternman on a commercial lobster fishing vessel when I started making these pictures, One afternoon I came across a quote in a newspaper while riding the ferry from Rockland to Vinalhaven where I lobster: “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?” It’s from The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot. I tore it from the newspaper and still have it sitting in my wallet.
The ocean is a vast expanse where one can find himself just as easily as one can lose himself. I see the land as a metaphor between being close to something you can almost reach out and feel it while simultaneously being equally far away. The land becomes a place of yearning, of wanting, of desire for love and sadness. Maybe the land signifies the idea of wanting to run from something you can never truly get away from.
The types of weather in which you’ve chosen to photograph make visibility and clarity very difficult, which in a sense I think lends an air of mystery to the photographs. What was your interest in the idea of visibility in making these pictures?
My captain jokes that if someone said, “You’re done lobstering for the rest of your life,” that he would call it good and give them a kiss on the cheek. There are romantic notions about lobstering and being on the ocean, and I’d be lying if I said they were not true, but the work is very physically and emotionally demanding.
Sometimes you have a clear mind and others your thoughts are like thick fog. There’s a video component to the photographs, a short film I made while taking the ferry from Vinalhaven to Rockland on a day so foggy you could not see 20 feet in front of the boat. An artist friend who previously lobstered came to the exhibition, watched the video, and said, “I have no idea where I am now.” It’s how I feel while sometimes on the water.
The weather has a very large impact on your psyche, and I wanted to explore this idea. We feel warm, comfortable, and peaceful during sunsets and sunrises, and lost, unsure, and uncomfortable when we’re in fog.
Despite concretely being seascapes, there’s a powerful strain of kind of figurative abstraction in the use of the sky, particular as the lines and weight of the clouds are offset or underpinned by the movement of the sea. This idea is, I think, reinforced by the sequencing of the images that you’ve set, wherein they at first might not seem rhythmic, but subtly move toward a point of high drama in the final image. What were some of your inspirations for making these images? Did you look at any JMW Turner?
I had to look up JMW Turner’s work after reading your question. His work is very beautiful. When making these photographs I had in my mind less specific artists and more so thoughts, memories, and feelings: hope, faith, abandonment, loss, love, depression, anger, sadness, warmth, cold, beginnings, endings, the past, present, and future.
After making these photographs, I attended a meditation retreat where you sit in silence for 10 days. I experienced vast highs and lows during this time. A central idea of the retreat is the idea of each day being the same while different in it’s own way. I wanted these photographs to have this feeling.
I think that the way you’ve used the clouds functions almost as a means of disclosing and revealing faint traces of land, and that that has the effect of generating a sense of distance. Some of the images are quite bleak because of it, while others are slightly hopeful but seem freighted with some kind of adversity. Do the pictures reflect anything you yourself were feeling or thinking? Are they in any way analogues?
Not necessarily at the specific moments they were made, but yes, they can be reflections of certain past experiences in my life.
How and where were the photographs made? Is it an area anywhere near the Saint George river you previously photographed?
The Saint George River photographs were made in Cushing, Maine, and this series of photographs were made on Vinalhaven, an island about 15 miles off the coast of Rockland, Maine. The two towns are close and located in a region of Maine where I live named the Midcoast.
Can you maybe talk a bit about how you worked in the editing of the photographs from which you made this final selection, and also about how you set about sequencing – with what sorts of ideas or priorities you had in mind? Did you work at a high volume of output, or very slowly, or some other way?
I put maybe 10 rolls of film through my camera over the course of September, October, and November 2010, the time period in which these photographs were made. I want each selected photograph to express it’s own feeling while not being dissimilar enough from the rest to make the series feel disjointed.
What sorts of things led you to photographing in this particular place, especially since in a way you disguise locations that you’ve clearly been drawn toward?
The ideas associated with running away and freedom, and the faux and true notions that come along with those ideas.
How did you address the making of these pictures in the light of other sets of seascapes, maybe like those of Sugimoto for instance?
I’ve known Sugimoto’s landscapes and like them but did not consider them when making these landscapes.
How has the work been received following the show you had up last month? Has it led you toward any new ideas for a subsequent project, or does it rarely work that way?
The exhibition was a lot of fun. Although my work was previously shown in New York, it had not been shown in Maine very much and it feels good to have debuted at Asymmetrick Arts and in the place where it was made.
I attended the Camden International Film Festival this fall and liked Low & Clear, a documentary film about the relationship between two fly fisherman. It was so beautiful. Right now I’m starting to research filmmaking and have a couple of ideas that I excited about for 2012.
Does this series feel to you like one that you’re likely to revisit or extend at a later date? Do you think there’s space within it to add more?
Right now it has the feeling of coming to the end of a good book or poem.