September – October 2010 About The Cover
What if William Blake had had a camera? What if, instead of dismissing photography in its mechanical incarnation, as he would likely have done, Blake had employed it as an instrument of vision and imagination, no less than engraving? What if he had been able to treat it as a vehicle of poetry and prophecy? He might have made photographs like those of Christopher Bucklow. Bucklow is an inheritor of a British tradition of visionary image-making that extends from artists like Blake, Henry Fuseli, and Madge Gill to a group of contemporary photographers who make direct registrations of light, without recourse to traditional cameras—a group that includes Adam Fuss, Susan Derges, and Gary Fabian Miller. We might also cite those peculiar scientist visionaries who investigated photography before cameras—William Henry Fox Talbot and Anna Atkins. The radiant human silhouette on this month’s cover,Tetrarch, 12.43pm., 20th March 2009, is metaphor and document, insisting on the intersection of visible and invisible realms. Bucklow has described such work as “the deposit of an idea into external form.” Eight of these images are on view in Chelsea at Danziger Projects, September 9-October 23. James Danziger describes the process Bucklow has perfected to make them: “Technically, he does not use a lens. His device to record light is more like a giant pinhole camera.” Bucklow’s method involves using a silhouette of his subject and translating this to a piece of foil, which he then perforates with some 20,000 tiny holes. This becomes “the negative” he uses to expose a piece of photo paper inside a large box, placed outdoors. Each pinprick acts to produce a refracted image of the sun within the silhouette. Adds Danziger, “The number of pinprick images corresponds roughly to the number of days in a human life.” Bucklow’s silhouettes might be considered in light of Blake’s mystical phrase, “the universe in a grain of sand”—the cosmos, in a sense, composes a person, and vast celestial processes are figured forth in small things. Bucklow’s work, and Gary Fabian Miller’s, which will appear subsequently at Danziger, testify to the enduring conviction among certain artists that photography, because of its link to the physical phenomena of the world, has the capacity not simply to document appearances but to reveal what makes appearance possible—in this case the profound unity between mind and external reality, a unity that cameraless photographs especially embody. Nothing intervenes to distort the light: light forges patterns on paper and the mind organizes them according to deep regularities, just as the mind orchestrates the capture of light. Blake once wrote that there is no progress without contrarities, and Bucklow has taken it to heart. In choosing a method that combines chance and desire, objective forces and subjective intention, in equal measure, he has sought to resolve the modern alienation of consciousness from the world.