Why did I stop the car to make these pictures?
These photographs were taken along Ontario highways number 7 and 41 between 2002 and 2014. I accummulated these images without a lot of premeditation or an or agenda to guide me nevertheless I want to confront them to explain – or at least question - the space they occupy in my life..
I love making pictures and for me looking through a camera is sensual and intense.. My cameras let me engage my subjects with an intimacy that I cannot achieve with words. My inability to satisfactorily explain my own visuality has been the subject of several small photo projects I have made since the nineteen seventies. These pictures of shacks and roadside banalities are symptoms – or metaphors – a bout a longer path taken. After 40 years of making photographs daily photographing has become so much a part of my presence in the world that is has become instinctual and reflexive for me. I can’t imagine being anyone else but, as the pictures I have made grow in numbers, new strategies are needed to locate, manage and assign meaning to my images. The task of organizing and categorizing them has changed from a casual , uncomplicated one into something that is technical, complex and unforgiving. I no longer rummage through boxes of prints , instead I search within a hundred thousand images in a database that references files stored on a dozen hard drives.
When I am driving I look for pictures as I go and sometimes I think to myself “This road is not pretty, but I must keep my eyes open because I know something positive will be achieved if I shoot more photographs again, today. “ . My need to be satiated visually is compulsive and irrational , I love to work this way but I am becoming suspicious that my intuition is out of control and that I do not really know what I am doing. I feel guilty when I hold my camera without knowing why ....
After driving back and forth on this road a hundred times and shooting and reshooting; I am still unsure what makes me stop the car. Sometimes I whisper to myself, corrosively . . . “futile, futile, there is no point....” in frustration as I set up the camera for yet another shot.
Or perhaps I say to myself. . “ I love to look but I am bored of looking this way. “ ?
Did I stop because I saw evocative subject matter I could colour as personal and sentimental? To make a narrative with my eye on the rear view mirror? To talk about myself through the image of a landscape?
When I arrange them every picture stains another, more or less, depending on its proximity to the others and its nature. I think that the images link in emotional and poetic ways. But that is just me . . .
Why not speculate, invent or project readings onto the list of huts and leverage them as metaphors for something they are not? Perhaps use them as paranoid stand-ins for doom, failure, lost dreams and a pointer to the sharp end of time’s arrow? It is all good, it works.
What are all the pictures for and who will use them? The subject is one thing and I see another . Each shack whines at the traffic for sympathy ‘‘ stop here! I need your business to survive, it’s all home baked! . I could stop to historicize it, mourn it, praise it or advocate for it or I could talk to people behind the shacks … but I won’t..
I can always take safety in the structure of this collection – the axioms, rules and logic of inclusion and precedence that I have used as my aesthetic which may only be a substitute for meaning, or just barren style. Art history provides some lovely excuses and then there are formal niceties to admire too ... there are all the grids, lines, chronologies, sequencing, endless hierarchies ordered by colour, size, shape, function, price. But never ordered by meaning…. It is so easy to find a place for an image in my thorough and indecisive archive, that is full of contingency , safe , orderly and polite . . . anesthesia and I can’t stop.