In Ersilia, to establish the relationships that sustain the city’s life, the inhabitants stretch strings from the corners of the houses, white or black or gray or black-and-white according to whether they mark a relationship of blood, of trade, authority, agency. When the strings become so numerous that you can no longer pass among them, the inhabitants leave; the houses are dismantled; only the strings and their supports remain.
From a mountainside, camping with their household goods, Ersilia’s refugees look at the labyrinth of taut strings and poles that rise in the plain. That is the city of Ersilia still, and they are nothing.
They rebuild Ersilia elsewhere. They weave a similar pattern of strings which they would like to be more complex and at the same time more regular than the other. Then they abandon it and take themselves and their houses still father away.
Thus, when traveling in the territory of Ersilia, you come upon the ruins of the abandoned cities, without the walls which do not last, without the bones of the dead which the wind rolls away: spiderwebs of intricate relationships seeking a form.
— Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
Making apparent links that are implicit within and among places, Calvino’s poetic evocation of urban life challenges me to reflect upon the ways in which I approach the world and its underlying structures.
I study places in the American landscape that are overlooked or marginalized: deserted structures, hidden passageways, the undersides of bridges. These are sites of dissonance: between order and disorder, beauty and neglect, wealth and poverty, decay and renewal, past and present. While empty of people, they bear marks of human actions. Traces of graffiti, unexpected reflections, cobwebs, retrofitted alterations, and unusual debris reveal layered histories in which experiences pile, accordion-like, onto a single place.
I am interested in pictures that slightly disorient the viewer, creating an ambiguous sense of time and place. Rather than documentary photographs, I think of my works as psychological portraits of places seen through the exacting gaze of the 8 × 10 inch large-format camera. This camera permits the lens to move independently of the film, allowing adjustments of perspective and focus to create images that are visually complex and immersive. The color negatives are drum scanned, color corrected, and printed at large scale to maximize the resolution and subtlety of the film. The images are not otherwise digitally manipulated or changed.
Each photograph may be viewed on its own but installing the works together makes visible the strings that link the various landscapes – revealing webs of intricate relationships.