“Ghosts: Civil War Portraits” seeks to breathe new life into historical photographic portraits to portray the emotions and damage of war. Using daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes from the American Civil War, I remove the metal mattes from the original 1860’s decorative cases to reveal the vivid patina of 160 years of oxidation – the “backstage” of traditional memorialization, infused with the energy of time. I use modern technology to rework them, then print 24″x30″ transparencies adhered to acrylic, resembling large ambrotypes. When mounted slightly away from the wall, the young soldiers and women cast ghostlike shadows on the surface behind them, reminiscent of 19th century spirit photography. Let us also remember the personal nature of these portraits, these artifacts of mourning, as in one soldier’s pencilled inscription — “Dear Sister Eliza, Keep this until I cease to be remembered. If we never meet again, with this in your possession, I will not be entirely forgotten.”
I have several related series of war artifacts that evoke past objects, that have a physical presence. “War Games” is composed of macro portraits of “as found,” damaged, vintage toy soldiers from the 1930’s through 1960’s. Why were these broken toys not thrown away? Because they were important to the children who played with them and because they have stories to tell. Consider the boys and the men they became as both implicitly present in these portraits of British, American, and German soldiers. And I invite you to reflect on war trauma and how play mirrors and prepares for adult experience. Both then, and now.
I make digital macro images of these damaged toy soldiers to create 24″x36″ dye sublimated color aluminum prints. I also photograph them with a view camera and macro lens for one-of-a-kind, 4″x5″ wet plate collodion tintypes that I place in ornate 19th century cases. I have also extended the toy soldier artifacts to poseable action figures from recent decades (“GI Joes”) in “Brand of Brothers.” Another series, “LostBoys,” highlights images from the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, inspired by families who lost young sons and who told me that their greatest fear was that their boys would be forgotten.
In my landscape work, over ten years, I have photographed a lily pond in southern Maine in all seasons. From a jon boat I watch how life unfolds, absorbed by and into Nature. My book, Anthem: For a Warm Little Pond, is made up of 50 of these medium format film and digital photographs and was included in the Griffin Museum’s Photobook 2016 exhibition.
Capturing “moments of rightness” relies most of all on seeing and felt harmonies of design. I have been fortunate to learn from Karin Rosenthal, Bobbi Lane, Christopher James, Alison Shaw, Freeman Patterson, Andre Gallant, Joyce Tenneson, and Neal Rantoul, among other photographers.
Anaïs Nin once wrote that the personal life, deeply lived, always expands into truths beyond itself, or as the psychoanalyst, Christopher Bollas, puts it, “That which we know but have not yet thought.” I seek images that make me stop, feel, linger. Consider them a remembrance – where I’ve been, where I’ve returned.