July 13, 2011

Gone West

The backdrop from my Go West series (1995-2003). A portraiture series I photographed during summers while traveling West from New York City in my Bronco loaded with backdrops and 4x5 - setting up behind the scenes at rodeos in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. A series that took me on a journey of sorts in search of photographic subjects, a cinematic form of reality, the past, my future, a new identity out West perhaps - and eventually led me to the Badlands and to the ranch where I now work and live my life "beyond the brushstrokes" of the painted backdrop - if you look real close you can see Pony and me riding around inside the Western scene. Or as my good friend Tom so eloquently put it ...

"I get the sense that where you live is beyond here or there. Maybe it's not in the place the photograph depicts...not really in the photograph either, since we rarely see you there. The backdrop and the film are your frontier and the real range you ride. Perhaps the camera lens, which pulls together inner and outer worlds, is where you are. You've fashioned a cocoon of scenic, romantic immensity within the reflective, ground-glass eclipse that somehow manages to avoid reflecting cliche, triviality or exploitation. You've manifested a suspended dreamtime that is more real for you than the physical scene. When details intrude, it shatters the reality of the magic. You are like Alice and the looking glass. Somehow you've gotten through the surface of the tintype and beyond the brush strokes on the backdrop. You've time-traveled through the yellowed wood pulp and fading black ink of old newspaper clippings. The dust and the trail you were riding became the silver nitrate and celluloid of a silent western and you and your pony have somehow sunk into it and remained whole. Your presence in the real physical scene is only an artifact of your true presence inside the surface. We know where your heart lies and why it lies there. We realize we can't get there. This is the ache of beauty and longing and why that ache sustains us. It is no accident that you've built the portal from whence you travel in a place called 'Interior'." (Tom Havran 2010)