v3.1 / Ben Nixon’s Pareidolia

We are meaning makers. We can’t help it. It’s second nature. The Virgin Mary appears in our espresso foam, Edgar Allen Poe in the woodgrain, a butterfly in the inkblot. No matter how abstract the noise, music slips in. No matter how unintelligible the words, poetry abides.

i went to the store to buy some groceries.
i store to buy some groceries.
i were to buy any groceries.
horses are to buy any groceries.
horses are to buy any animal.
horses the favorite any animal.
horses the favorite favorite animal.
horses are my favorite animal.

This is Google’s AI. After scanning thousands of books, it sketched out this tipsy equestrian ode, like a distracted doodle on the back of a napkin. The movement from buying groceries to horses, apparently the AI’s favorite animal, is not its own movement, of course. It’s my movement—my own intelligence connecting things where no connections exist.

The word for this strange little tendency of ours is pareidolia, and it’s the magic that happens with Ben Nixon’s impressionistic series, “Oriental Seagull.” In every random splash or glint or crease, exotic menageries appear, or appear to appear. Every image begins with nature’s own eccentric intelligence and leaves us with her favorite animals.

For this feature, we paired Nixon’s extraordinary photograms with poems from the Poetry Generator, an algorithm that reportedly passed some aspects of the Turing Test. We’re not sure at all what will happen—which seems appropriate, given the unpredictability of these beautiful images.

Ben Nixon

Three Stars
Three Stars © Ben Nixon

Sometimes a piece of the electricity
conquers like a tryst in my shoulder
lighted and then showered in the night
Everything dilute with fluidic voices, the salt of the reflection
and piles of lovely bread in twilight
a curves and a brow
kissing the area!
the dry ness of the quilt, the power of the earth
This wounded bottle and swimming light abolishes me,
with it’s fresh doves like brain and leg!
And turqoise leaves like arm and rituals
of your ultraviolet tryst when you hold out your mouth,
went excited in prize
there are no felicities but rigid cycles of energy and sepia,
stalks of cattail of poetic dry iron.

Space Anatomy
Space Anatomy © Ben Nixon

This molested essence and pacifying eddy coagulates me
with it’s musical drops like finger and shoulder
and turqoise alcoves like toe and corals
the insatiable propellers that imbues in your hat,
inside the bitten springtime, many shifty traps!
You enrich headlong into a region to relax your business?
Everything melancholy with nocturnal voices, the salt of the soul.
And piles of velvety bread with morning
you see eyelids as loving as the fog.
To seek another land.

Remnants © Ben Nixon

Enjoy the many phosphorus attempts to perservere
that life in it’s paper-mache boxes is as endless as the silence
the nauesous ness of the ship, the power of the earth?
The order of the shades of silvery.

Homage to Wynn
Homage to Wynn © Ben Nixon

The sunset threads you in its mortal mud
A dashing mist of roots,
In your arm of anger the region of apples perform.

A Matter of Herbert
A Matter of Herbert © Ben Nixon

Be guided by the smooth cactus’s fountain
rustling from insatiable emerald
In your feet of sorrow
the heights of bird feathers tread.

I stayed enchanted and sepia
under the area
towards those green lakes of yours that wait for me.

Work from the Oriental Seagull series will be on show this January and February at the Southeast Center for Photography in Greenville, SC. For more news, check out bennixonphotography.com. And be sure to follow Ben Nixon on Instagram!

v2.9 / Searching for Ferdinand Valent

Who is Ferdinand Valent?

You might lift a few virtual stones to see what scurries out from hiding. You’ll find an image or two that way.

And okay, the index of Roosens’ and Salu’s multivolume bibliography of photography books will tell you that he appears in Slovak Foto, published 1980. ($77.69 on AbeBooks, if you’re interested.)

But don’t bother with Facebook. Abandon Instagram. Flee LinkedIn! None of them will mutter a word as to the whereabouts of our elusive Valent.

That’s pretty much where things stood for me after two of Valent’s extraordinary images tripped into my tumblr feed.

So I checked the library.

There I found one Ferdinand Valent, PhD Electrical Engineering, Slovakia. This Valent co-published an article titled “Basic Problems and Solution of the Encapsulation of a Low-Voltage Spark Gap with Arc Splitter Chamber” in the Journal of Electrical Engineering. 

Not the sort of thing you typically find on the art photographer’s CV.

What the hell, I thought, let’s give it a go:

Dear Dr. Valent,

Are you the photographer who made these extraordinary photographs?

My apologies if I have contacted the wrong person.

Collier Brown

One wisdom tooth removal and week of recovery later:

Dear Mr. Brown,

I have received your mail, the e-mail address you have is correct.
Yes, I can confirm my authorship of the photographs you have noticed.

I keep photographing the Slovak landscape for almost 50 years. My pictures have been published in several books and magazines. Currently, a monography collecting my most important photographs is in preparation and it is expected to be released at the end of November by the FOART Bratislava company.

Thank you for your interest.

Ferdinand Valent

Valent fans will please forgive my ignorance of work that must be well-known in Central Europe. But 50 years and no digital paper trail! Of course, exposure wasn’t exactly forthcoming, Valent told me, given East/West hostilities. And limelight isn’t exactly his thing.

I now hold Valent’s new retrospective in my hands. The title is CESTY DOMOV, which Google Translate tells me means ROADS HOME in Slovak. But I’m not sure I’m any closer to the real Valent than I was when I first encountered the images.

I’m okay with that. I have the photographs. We have the photographs.

In lieu of Valent’s words for this issue of Od Review, I’d like to share a couple free associations. Enjoy!

The Last Country
The Last Country © Ferdinand Valent

A simple dirt road. Surely, it leads home for someone. But the photograph has nothing further to say about the two trucks that must have hooked catawampus off course, their tracks scribbling away to some rosier nowhere.

The Solitude
The Solitude © Ferdinand Valent

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben

He who has no house now will never build again.
He who’s now alone will stay alone a long time.

—from “Herbsttag” Rainer Maria Rilke

Chance Encounters 8
Chance Encounters 8 © Ferdinand Valent

Soft grays glance in every direction as if to escape, but in their efforts to survive, they meet only with monstrosities of darkness and light.


Fairy Tales for My Son 2
Fairy Tales for My Son 2 © Ferdinand Valent

“Just as the constant increase of entropy is the basic law of the universe, so it is the basic law of life to be ever more highly structured and to struggle against entropy.”—Václav Havel

Chance Encounters 1
Chance Encounters 1 © Ferdinand Valent

Craquelure: A Performance by the Oxford English Dictionary in Six Parts

1914   C. Bell Art 169   He will put up with a cunning concoction of dates and watermarks, cabalistic signatures, craquelure, patina, [etc.].
1934   Burlington Mag. Jan. 3/2   Certain areas of the picture..have been largely repainted; the craquelure ceasing abruptly.
1942   Antiquity 16 99   When the incrustation [on silver] is appreciably thick, there is considerable surface expansion and consequent craquelure.
1956   M. Swan Paradise Garden ii. 24   Marcus left the aesthetic aspect of a work of art unexpressed, but remembered sizes, colours, craquelures and iconography.
1963   P. H. Johnson Night & Silence ii. 6   A craquelure of rose upon his cheeks.
1969   Times Lit. Suppl. 6 Nov. 1272/3   The craquelure in the Westminster pictures goes through the signatures on both panels.

All photographs © Ferdinand Valent

v1.14 / Katrin Koenning & What Should Not Shine

“It is well known that human beings under certain physical conditions become luminous,” wrote Charles Frederick Holder in his obscure little book, Living Lights: A Popular Account of Phosphorescent Animals and Vegetables (1887).

“Luminous Protozoans” by A.L. Clement (one of several beautiful illustrations by Clement in the book)

With its UFO-like eyewitness accounts and pseudoscientific case studies, you won’t find this book on many library shelves. But taken from an artist’s point of view—a photographer’s especially—Holder’s declarations still hold true. People do grow luminous with rage; they glow with contentment; they sparkle with excitement.

What should not shine shines all the same, depending on the mood, the company, the right place and the right time. I feel every bit as convinced of this as Holder when I look at the photographs of Katrin Koenning.

In Koenning’s series, Glow, the banal bric-a-brac of life suddenly takes on a kind of cosmic significance. Water reflects its own galaxies; paper shines like a square moon, and the torsos of anonymous people flare up, like in Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo.”

Check out Koenning’s debut monograph, Astres Noirs (Chose Commune 2016), copublished with photographer Sarker Protick, another seer of the “living lights.” The images shine in silver ink—a lovely touch and perfectly in sync with the book’s idea.

Chapter XV: Man’s Relations to the Phenomenon of Phosphorescence

© Katrin Koenning

DR. PHIPSON, the eminent scientist, states that he once observed certain phenomena in man, the light being a brilliant scintillation of a metallic pink color.

It is well known that human beings under certain physical conditions become luminous. In some cases among the ignorant great excitement has been occasioned, and the victim avoided as a pest, or something capable of dire disaster to the entire community.

In a small German village, an English physician discovered a man who was luminous at night, and who had caused much alarm among the superstitious.

Bartholin records an instance of an Italian lady whom he calls Mulier splendens, who suddenly found that, when rubbed with a linen cloth in the dark, her body gave out a brilliant phosphorescent light; so that she appeared in a darkened room like a veritable fire-body, an awe-striking object to her superstitious servant, who fled from her speechless with fear and amazement, thinking that her mistress was being consumed.

© Katrin Koenning

Dr. Kane records a very curious instance of luminosity, probably electric, which played about his person. He was on his way with Petersen to an Esquimau settlement, in order to procure food. Their thermometer indicated 42 C. (44 Fahr). With their weary dogs and sledges, they had reached some untenanted huts at a place called Anoatok, after thirty miles march from the ship. “We took to the best hut,” says Dr. Kane, “filled in its broken front with snow, housed our dogs, and crawled in among them. It was too cold to sleep. Next morning we broke down our door, and tried the dogs again. They could hardly stand. A gale now set in from the south-west, obscuring the moon, and blowing very hard. We were forced back into the hut; but after corking up all the openings with snow, and making a fire with our Esquimau lamp, we got up the temperature to 30 below zero, Fahr., cooked coffee, and fed the dogs freely. This done, Petersen and myself, our clothing frozen stiff, fell asleep through pure exhaustion; the wind outside blowing death to all that might be exposed to its influence. I do not know how long we slept, but my admirable clothing kept me up. I was cold, but far from dangerously so, and was in a fair way of sleeping out a refreshing night, when Petersen woke me with, ‘Captain Kane, the lamp’s out.’ I heard him with a thrill of horror. . . . Our only hope was in relighting our lamp. Petersen, acting by my directions, made several attempts to obtain fire from a pocket-pistol; but his only tinder was moss, and our heavily stone-roofed hut or cave would not bear the concussion of a rammed wad. By good luck I found a bit of tolerably dry paper, and becoming apprehensive that Petersen would waste our few percussion-caps with his ineffectual snapping, I determined to take the pistol myself. It was so intensely dark that I had to grope for it, and in so doing touched his hand. At that instant the pistol became distinctly visible. A pale-bluish light slightly tremulous, but not broken, covered the metallic parts of it, the barrel, lock and trigger. The stock, too, was clearly discernible, as if by the reflected light; and to the amazement of both of us, the thumb and two fingers with which Petersen was holding it, the creases, wrinkles, and circuit of the nails, clearly defined upon the skin. The phosphorescence was not unlike the ineffectual fire of the glowworm. As I took the pistol, my hand became illuminated also, and so did the powder-rubbed paper when I raised it against the muzzle. The paper did not ignite at the first trial; but the light from it continuing, I was able to charge the pistol without difficulty, rolled up my paper into a cone, filled it with moss sprinkled over with powder, and held it in my hand whilst I fired. This time I succeeded in producing flame, and we saw no more of the phosphorescence. . . . Our fur clothing and the state of the atmosphere may refer it plausibly enough to our electrical condition.”

© Katrin Koenning

Mr. James Moir of Saroch, Scotland, relates an equally strange personal experience, possibly connected with the electrical condition of the atmosphere. “In February, 1882,” he says, “this part of Scotland was visited by a furious gale of wind, rain, sleet, and hail. The gale subsided considerably about five o’clock in the afternoon. At eight o’clock the sky was fairly clear, when a black cloud sprang up in the north, and the night became suddenly intensely dark. With the darkness came a tremendous shower of hail. All at once I was startled by a vivid flash of lightning close at hand, but without thunder. At the same instant I found myself enveloped in a sheet of pale, flickering, white light. It seemed to proceed from every part of my clothes, especially on the side least exposed to the hail; and more particularly and brightly from my arm, shoulder, and head. Though I turned about pretty smartly, and shifted my position, I found it impossible to shake off the nickering flames. When I walked on they continued with me for two or three minutes, disappearing only when the violence of the blast was somewhat diminished. I felt no unusual sensation beyond the stinging of the hail, and no sound except that of the storm.”

© Katrin Koenning

The adventures of John Stewart, who for many years drove a mail-gig between Dunkeld and Aberfeldy, Scotland, as given by an English paper, are well worth recording. On an extremely dark night, he and another man, climbing a rocky, heathery height in Rannock, were all at once set on flames by some mysterious fire, which appeared to proceed from the heather which they were traversing; and the more they tried to rub the flames off, the more tenaciously they seemed to adhere, and the more the fire increased in brightness and magnitude. Moreover, the long heather, agitated by their feet, emitted streams of burning vapor; and for the space of a few minutes they were in the greatest consternation. They believed that they barely escaped a living cremation. Of course their liberal share of native superstition, and the gloom of the night in the weird wilderness remote from human habitation, rendered their position the more alarming.

© Katrin Koenning

A wonderful phenomenon is noted by a gentleman living in Cheltenham, England. He was returning from Great Yarmouth to his house, a distance of three miles, and took the road of the Denes, intending to cross by the lower ferry. Before reaching it, a dark cloud coming from the south-east, off the sea, suddenly surprised him, and drenched him with rain. He jumped into the boat, and when the boatman had pushed off, he remarked that every drop of rain hanging from his hair, beard, and clothes was luminous with white light, well seen, as it was very dark at the time. He afterwards learned that the same appearance had been observed by several pilots exposed to the same shower, and he attributed the occurrence to a species of St. Elmo’s fire.

v1.13 / Mike Jackson & the Age of Light

“If you attend to the work . . . you achieve, in effect, a direct link to your intuition, your real self.”

The end of one aesthetic movement and the beginning of another is a bit like the snake eating its own tail. Art doesn’t play friendly with well-defined historical moments. It holds a grudge against limitation. There are more Romantics now than you could swing a dead albatross at—more Decadents than Baudelaire could have imagined. Futurism sells. And the orphans of Impressionism rule the world.

Mike Jackson’s stunning luminograms extend toward perfection what many photographers in the early twentieth century began: the Bauhaus abstractions of Moholy-Nagy, for instance, or the “Designs in Abstract Forms of Light” by California photographer, Francis Bruguière.

To set the mood for Jackson’s luminograms, I want to open with a piece by Thomas Wilfred who, like Jackson, didn’t just work with light; he played it like an instrument. Wilfred called his art “lumia,” and developed the “clavilux,” a color organ, to orchestrate light as a musician orchestrates sound. The clip below is Wilfred’s Opus 140—something like what I imagine goes through Jackson’s mind, if not his studio.

Mike Jackson’s luminograms are available at MMX Gallery in London. “Each Luminogram is unique and only one Silver Gelatin print is produced of each image.” Get yours here!

And be sure to check out Issue 11 of Od Review for Mike Jackson’s extraordinary series, “The Child’s Landscape.”


“Beside the Church” © Mike Jackson

I believe that there is a universality between all things. I feel that the eye selectively looks for these truths – and they are everywhere. I came to this conclusion after studying a beach in Wales for eight years. I found that the process of repeating the visits to the beach and the constant search for the new and exciting events that were happening on the beach made me realise, eventually, that it wasn’t actually the beach that I was photographing. I was using the beach as a learning tool to become more self-aware of my response to the universal truths that are all around us. The fact that I repeated the searching with very basic tools and no complications or distractions, such as multiple lenses or new equipment, made it easier for me to see and understand what was happening to me when I noticed something worth photographing. Listening to those hushed suggestions in the mind allowed me to trust in the smallest idea or impulse.

Discovering this basic fact allowed me to apply it to other work – and I started to realise that I could get the same sense of excitement from arranging cut out shapes on a table as I did from photographing the beach. So somewhere there is a connection.

“Luminogram 514” © Mike Jackson

It was at this time that I started experimenting with directing light onto old photo paper in the darkroom. It seemed to me that it was as simple as it can get – just light on paper. Over time I found that I could build up a series of steps that allowed me to mold the light and have the photo paper translate what I was doing. It felt as if my thoughts were being directly recorded onto the paper’s flat surface. And yet the results were startlingly three dimensional. It felt as if I were sculpting with light – and I see now that photo paper has more in common with sculpture than with drawing and painting. It changes its very structure at a chemical level. Unlike paintings that are only added to, the photo paper is changed, as stone would be when sculpted.

“Underpass” © Mike Jackson

The process grew over the months and I happily started to get repeatable results. When I got to this stage I began to be able to apply myself to the work – the reasoning behind it. I found it fascinating that you could produce work that has no real physical resemblance to reality, and yet your reactions to reality, your experience of reality, pushes your ideas and impulses towards making the marks in that unique one-off way. In effect you could produce a piece that reflects a memory or memories of a place, and the piece wouldn’t have to resemble that place at all. It doesn’t have to resemble any place, in fact. What is important is that the marks made are in honest response to my thoughts about that place. Reality could slip in there, but only as a reference – not as a fact.

“Vase in the Morning Sun” © Mike Jackson

As you work on the Luminogram, it also becomes self-referencing. The decisions that you make are based on both yourself and what is in front of you. The marks are made with all other marks in mind – you build up the image as a living fluid thing, everything relating to everything else.

The fact that you are using minimal tools means that you are forced to reduce, to be quick and to react on impulse. You have to be very attuned to that inner spark which moves your hand. You have no time to question it – you have to have complete trust in what you tell yourself to do. 

“-12” © Mike Jackson

If you attend to the work in this way, you achieve, in effect, a direct link to your intuition, your real self. But it is that link, that strange understanding that you actually can’t understand. It passes through and out. It is a stressful time – like juggling knives – especially as the process that I use has so many steps. One technical mistake ruins the whole thing and you are never able to visit that exact place again. I have dropped sheets of wet paper on the floor, burned them or incorrectly washed them. I work in an old shed, which is perfect, apart from bits falling down off the roof where the sparrows chatter and play – one small bit in my developing tray will ruin a whole piece. And I do feel a real sense of loss when that happens, because what I put into that piece is a struggle and something that I will never be able to do again.


v1.12 / The Strange Reflections of Alain Laboile

“Where is the surface, where does the real stop and where does the reflection begin?”

“I don’t want to be human,” says the young boy in Selma Lagerlöf’s classic saga, The Wonderful Adventures of Nils (1906-7; 1913). Nils is a wild child. He likes to hunt and make mischief. And when he catches a gnome one day, he becomes more than a reflection of the wilderness in human form. He finds the creature in himself, and through that creature, he discovers the strange, surreal world he’s been living in all along.


Alain Laboile’s series Réflexion Autour du Bassin takes us back to that creature existence that one knows only as a child—back to those wild, otherworldly dramas that only unfold near ponds where children play. In these photographs, children ride their trikes across the sky, leap whole forests, and grow branches right out of their hands. Who would ever want to be human if being human meant the loss of such play?


Mon travail photographique, démarré en 2006 est principalement axé sur la documentation en noir et blanc de la vie quotidienne de ma famille nombreuse dans la campagne Bordelaise.

La série Réflexion autour du bassin est une oeuvre parallèle, initiée presque accidentellement. Elle résulte d’une prise de vue banale sur la surface du bassin naturel creusé en famille dans notre jardin. J’ai immédiatement été séduit par le reflet généré. L’arrière-plan disparaissait, remplacé par le ciel, des distorsions se créaient, conférant aux images une dimension onirique. Une scène anodine prenait alors une tout autre dimension.

Nous vivons dans un lieu isolé, assez sauvage, les enfants évoluent en osmose avec la nature environnante. Notre jardin est un immense terrain de jeux, jonché d’éléments propices aux élans créatifs: Végétaux, outils, sculptures et structures métalliques . . . autant de possibilités de s’inventer des mondes fictifs.

Mes enfants élaborent de petites saynètes, se parent de costumes, s’accessoirisent avec ce qu’ils ont sous la main et laissent libre cours à leur imaginaire.

C’est cet univers fantasmagorique issu de la fantaisie enfantine que mes reflets illustrent.

Volontairement non narratifs afin de laisser toute liberté d’interprétation au spectateur, ils vont néanmoins titiller la petite flamme d’enfance qui sommeille en chacun de nous et en ravive un instant la lueur.

My photographic work, begun in 2006, is primarily centered on black and white documentation of my large family in the Bordeaux countryside.

The series Reflection around the Pond is a parallel work, begun almost accidentally. It is the result of an ordinary angling of the camera onto the surface of a natural pond that we dug as a family in our garden. I was immediately attracted by the reflection in generated. The background disappeared, replaced by the sky, and distortions were created that gave the images a dream-like quality. Thus an ordinary scene took on another dimension.

We live in an isolated place, rather wild, where children evolve in osmosis with the nature around them. Our garden is an immense playground, covered with elements conducive to fits of inspiration: plants, tools, sculptures and metallic structures . . . and as many possibilities to create fictive worlds.

My children think up little plays, put on costumes, accessorize with what they have on hand and let their imaginations run wild.

It is this phantasmagoric universe that springs from the child’s imagination that my reflections illustrate.

Purposefully non-narrative in nature so as to leave it up to the spectator to decide, they will nevertheless stir that little flame of childhood that sleeps in each one of us and momentarily revive its glow.

© Alain Laboile

Notre univers est cerné par l’eau: le ruisseau du fond du jardin qui déborde fréquemment jusqu’à la maison, les sources souterraines, le bassin naturel . . .

Au centre de notre monde trône la forêt de bambous peuplée d’animaux; ragondins, chevreuils, couleuvres et hérissons.

Comme un synthèse de tous ces éléments si familiers aux enfants, cette image incarne leur folie conjointe joyeuse et exubérante, accentuée par la déformation du visage de la dompteuse.

Our environment is surrounded with water: the stream from the back of the garden whose frequent overflow reaches the house, underground springs, the natural pond . . .

At the center of our world sits a bamboo forest teeming with animals: coypus, deer, garter snakes and hedgehogs.

Like a synthesis of all of these elements that are so familiar to the children, this image embodies their joyous and exuberant madness all at once, accentuated by the deformed face of the trainer.

© Alain Laboile

C’est l’automne.

L’élan de l’enfant induit une sensation de vitesse. Une évocation de la furtivité du temps, de la saisonnalité.

It’s autumn.

The child’s élan induces a feeling of swiftness. An evocation of the furtiveness of time, of seasonality.

© Alain Laboile

Der Struwwelpeter. Comme une illustration d’un conte pour enfants, une image empreinte de mystère, entre inquiétude et curiosité, qui suscite l’envie d’en savoir plus.

Der Struwwelpeter. Like an illustration from a story for children, an image tinged with mystery, between unease and curiosity, that elicits a desire to know more.

© Alain Laboile

C’est la perte des repères. Où est la surface, où s’arrête le réel, où démarre le reflet? Le temps est suspendu, les questions restent sans réponses. Une immersion dans l’absurde, au sein d’un rêve insensé que l’on ne maîtrise pas.

This is a loss of bearings. Where is the surface, where does the real stop and where does the reflection begin? Time is suspended, these questions remain unanswered. An immersion into the absurd, to the heart of a nonsensical dream that we cannot understand.

© Alain Laboile

Le jeu de la déformation poussé jusqu’à la séparation d’un bout du corps par la puissance de l’onde amplifie la théâtralité de la scène.

The theatricality of the scene is amplified by the distorted play in which the power of the water’s flow severs a part of the body.

Translations © Lusia Zaitseva, PhD candidate in comparative literature at Harvard University

Relativity: Wynn Bullock & Albert Einstein

21st Editions / Od Review is proud to present our newest book, Relativity: Wynn Bullock & Albert Einstein!

Relativity includes

– Einstein’s letters and his paper on special relativity (1905).
– (9) Bound Bullock platinum estate prints.
– (9) Loose Bullock platinum estate prints.
– (1) Vintage, signed Bullock silver-gelatin print (exceedingly rare).
– Binding by Peter Geraty
– Handmade paper throughout by TwinRocker and Hook Pottery Paper.
– Signed by all the artisans and Wynn Bullock’s two daughters.

Relativity is in a class by itself. It also marks a new era for 21st Editions. With this book, we begin a new collection and an even greater investment in the art of the book.

To stay informed about 21st productions, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, or subscribe to our mailing list, here.

For inquiries and pricing, contact us here.

If you would like your work to be seen by the editors at 21st Editions, submit to Od Review.














v1.11 / Mike Jackson & The Child’s Landscape

“I was creating my own world . . . with the awe of a child”

In addition to her indispensable book, Silent Spring, Rachel Carson also wrote a beautiful homage to the child’s imagination called The Sense of Wonder. Among the most crucial concerns in this book is Carson’s wish for all children “a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.”

Mike Jackson‘s series, The Child’s Landscape, evokes that exact sense of wonder. I had no idea, when I first came across these photographs, that Jackson’s cliffs and mountains and icebergs were not exactly what they seemed: monstrous outcrops of real stone and ice out there in the real ocean. But even when you learn about Jackson’s process, the images become no less real. In fact, they become “more real.” The child in me, as Jackson says, “can almost smell the sea, feel the rain lashing your face, hear the screaming gulls in the wind.”

Jackson explains the ideas at work behind The Child’s Landscape below. Be sure to check out his short film at the end of this post. And stay tuned for the second part of our Jackson feature, coming soon.

Mike Jackson


“Outcrop near Mann Point” © Mike Jackson

A Child’s Landscape is about how we, as adults, lose what we had as a child, and how something that is not real can give us access to that world again. An image can act as a gateway back to childhood.

After seeing my own children play on the rocky beaches at Ceibwr Bay in Pembrokeshire I noticed how they see the world in a much more expressive and exciting way. I also noticed how the real world, as adults see it, lacks this excitement. We see the beauty; they see the adventure. Our world is based on facts – their world is based on what could be.

“The Two Towers of St John, Evening Light” © Mike Jackson

With this in mind I tried to keep my eyes open to possible ways of showing a child’s way of thinking on paper. I spent a long time sketching the dramatic cliffs at Ceibwr Bay and everything came together when, while I was walking my dogs, I noticed some small frost damaged rocks. These to me looked like witches’ teeth and storm damaged cliffs. I collected them up and took them back to the studio to work with.

“Vaughan Mount” © Mike Jackson

After some creative play and using my sketches as a reference I managed to find a way of photographing these rocks to display their inherent quality – their amazing ability to defy scale. A small rock that you can hold in your hand still has the same structure as an enormous cliff face. This excited me and pushed me forward. Soon I was able to tap into the imagination of a child and show towering cliffs, storm battered bays and swooping gulls.

I decided to take on the mantle of an explorer and imagine that each image made was like an explorer’s log book – and I took it upon myself to name the landscapes – eventually creating a whole coastline of formations and inlets. I was free to do whatever I wanted – there was no limit. I was creating my own world.

“Iceberg Just One Mile South of Keep’s Bay” © Mike Jackson

Interestingly, I found that the fact that the landscape was not real didn’t matter at all. Because I wasn’t creating a landscape based on facts and reality – I was creating a Child’s Landscape. This leap from spending years recording reality, to making my own reality, interested me immensely – and it helped pave the way for my future work and my ability to disregard reality almost altogether.

“Cook’s Drum with Sailboat” © Mike Jackson

The strange thing is, these images, if you allow yourself to make that small switch from looking at them as a series of facts, to looking at them with the awe of a child, you find that you can almost smell the sea, feel the rain lashing your face, hear the screaming gulls in the wind. The fact that it isn’t real somehow makes it more real.

This concept – that the unreal can describe reality in a more emotive and satisfying way than reality itself is the driving force of everything that I now work on in the studio.

Ornamental Section Break