v2.18 / Connie Imboden’s Infirm Delight

In Connie Imboden’s work, the nude is enigma. It secrets, it suggests. But it seldom shares what it means outright. For over thirty-five years, Imboden has studied the indirect language of the body—indirectly. In many images, water reflects the nude’s promethean potential. It stretches, bends, folds, grinds, tears, and transforms. The body, in the end, may wear human skin and show its human teeth, but there’s nothing humane in its primal dramas. The photographs in this feature take us to the opposite extreme. Using scratched and broken glass, Imboden speaks to frailty and the gathering wreckage of what once might have been the body’s courage, desire, or confidence. Imboden likens these reflections to Dickinson’s “slant” telling of the “Truth.” The pairing feels right to me, not only in the slanted tellings, but in the way the windows fail sometimes in Dickinson’s poetry. The flies get inside. And when that happens, as it happens in these photographs, the body cannot “see to see.”


CONNIE IMBODEN

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Untitled 06-23-17-742 © Connie Imboden

Reflections in broken mirrors offers me a different way of seeing the human form, something like Dickinson’s “tell it slant”; the cracks, shards, scratches, and marks distort and illuminate the body through my exploration. It is this relationship, between the shapes of the mirrors and the forms of the body, that is the basis of my art.

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Untitled 01-14-16-502 © Connie Imboden

One shard suggests a helmet, another a broken chest armor, and still others seem to render his arms useless. I see in him a ghost of a knight, ruined through battle, but still diligent in his duty.

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Untitled 06-06-16-598 © Connie Imboden

A curved shard reveals just a slice of the face, but enough to match the mood implied by his hunched back and unsettled hands. Is it depression? Or hopelessness? Or something else?

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Untitled 05-01-17-819 © Connie Imboden

A large triangular shard cuts into the frail, broken figure, making him appear thin and brittle. This shard, ending in a cracked point in his leg, implies fragility, uncertainty, pathos, and even hopelessness.

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Untitled 05-26-17-277 © Connie Imboden

I could never conjure these images in my mind, but through a visual exploration, my eyes lead me, my camera, in an intuitive process that takes me to the edge of what I know and, more interestingly, to the edge of what I don’t know. As I leave thoughts, feelings and ideas behind, these creatures emerge.

It is on this intuitive path, this slant, that Dickinson’s, and my own truth, dazzles gradually.


To see more of Connie Imboden’s incredible work, go to connieimboden.com. And check out her excellent book, Reflections: 25 Years of Photography, published by Insight Editions.

v2.14 / Eric Kellerman’s Tenebrisms

There’s a poem I love by Heather McHugh that describes sunlight shattered by trees and water—an event without boundary, without order, yet somehow channeled by the eye, as if in deference to sight itself. In the opening lines, she says:

The sun that puts its spokes in every
Wheel of manhandle and tree

Derives its path of seashines
(Sheer centrifugality) from my

Regards. I send it
My regards. Some yards

Of lumen from the fabrika
Have come unbolted from the look

Of it (or likes of me) . . .

It’s the way I feel when I look at Eric Kellerman’s images of striped light colliding with dark torsos, scapulas, and the dunes of the mons veneris. The eyes (mine, at least) respond in kind—unbolted, loosed from all sense of origin, cause, effect. A complimentary esteem. To the tenebrisms: my regards.


Eric Kellerman

These photos form part of an ongoing series called Tenebrisms. The word “tenebrism” (deriving from the Latin for “darkness”) usually refers to a style of painting associated with Caravaggio and others, where deep shadow prevails and strong contrast is used to heighten the drama of the subject matter. However, my tenebrisms are far from dramatic; on the contrary, they are rather quiet, reflective things. No Judith beheading Holofernes here.

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Kim’s Downward Slope © Eric Kellerman

Like one or two other photographic styles I have evolved, the first tenebrism came about accidentally. The stripe of light, created by the flash of a snooted studio lamp through a narrow gap between two abutting boards onto a woman’s angled face, cast an interesting shadow—one that, following the contours of forehead, nose and chin, appeared to be the profile of another dark face superimposed. I call this photo Eclipse, for reasons obvious when you see it!

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Becky’s Dark Portrait © Eric Kellerman

The stripes my studio lamps and abutting boards generate are not as a rule smooth bands of undifferentiated light—for one thing, their passage through the narrow gap also endows them with interference patterns in the form of alternating substripes, both lighter and darker. These add variety and texture to the image.

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Elle-Beth’s Back and Side © Eric Kellerman

But best of all is the unpredictable journey undertaken by the stripe as it encounters the contours of a complex volume like the female body. Anatomical discontinuities are brought together by highways of sinuous light adjusting their routes, widths and intensities according to the terrain traversed. This is where the precision work begins, a choreography of muscle, bone, sinew and skin. Every small move, a single breath, a twitch, can make or break a photo.

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Laura’s Undulations © Eric Kellerman

As I’m a photographer who believes in improvisation, the sudden spotting of a potentially good tenebrism will certainly induce a frisson. “Hold it!” I hear myself shriek at my already very still collaboratrix. “Don’t move, don’t breathe, don’t think!”

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Portrait of N © Eric Kellerman

Serendipity beats meticulous planning any day . . .


Kellerman’s The Box was one of 2015’s “books of the year,” awarded by the Federation of European Photographers. See more from Kellerman on Facebook and check out his most recent book from Edition Galerie Vevais!

Feature Image: Anna’s Shoulders © Eric Kellerman

v2.10 / Into the Staggers with Robert Hutinski

I will throw thee from my care for ever
Into the staggers and the careless lapse
Of youth and ignorance . . .

It’s a line from Shakespeare’s dark comedy, All’s Well That Ends Well— “dark” because nothing ends well and everyone, at some point, falls prey to “the staggers” of the human condition.

We stagger in fear and intoxication. We stagger in confusion and weakness. But we stagger too in elation, wonder, and passion.

It’s this condition I sense in Robert Hutinski‘s series Recognition. In the images, the curtains open on a play with many titles: “Melancholia,” “Prophecy,” and so on. But “recognition” is like “love” in All’s Well That Ends Well. It never really takes place. There’s only the unspoken, the unrealized, the evanescent.

That’s the “all” of it, which is only to say, with the Slovakian poet Peter Repka, “We stagger in the corridors . . . nevertheless we live.”


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Prophecy © Robert Hutinski

In broad daylight suddenly
from a tense unknown indistinct face
(in pauses)
a thousand times a second I read a letter
sent not by hand but by gaze.
All that it says is:
Quickly . . .

from “While the Connections Last” by Ivan Štrpka

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Fox © Robert Hutinksi

The soil is loose, the fence is rotten.
The tree is sinking in.
The breeze is a train.
We stagger in the corridors.

We’ve known a long time
thirst is unquenchable.
And nevertheless we live.

from “Darling Desert” by Peter Repka

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Melancholia © Robert Hutinksi

and sometime too we may find a spyhole, where the universe
reveals more depth, or a moment’s opening
of its taut strings, the other
side of the ungraspable touch
of altitude with abyss . . .

from “Melancholias” by Kamil Peteraj

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Man from Shadow © Robert Hutinksi

that man with a message
which for ages nobody’s waited for

because the old men are dead
who would have understood it
because the children are not born
who could decipher it

that man torn in movement
who is now only running
so he won’t take root in earth

from “Messenger with No News” by Daniel Hevier

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In the Forest You Are Not Alone © Robert Hutinksi

And you,
who earlier blew out the remains of the marrow,
whistle your lament in the bone’s hollow.

Empty to emptiness.

from Beauty Leads to Stone XLVII by Ján Buzássy


Poetry excerpts from Igor Hochel, ed., Six Slovak Poets, trans. John Minahane (Todmorden, UK: Arc Publications, 2010).

Follow Robert Hutinski on Facebook and Instagram. Prints can be purchased at Eyemazing Editions.

v2.8 / maria gutu @ the edges

“To fill the emptiness is the most important aim for the artist,” says Maria Gutu, who stocks the vacancy of her images with fragments from old soviet magazines. Politicize that process, if you must. The cyclops welcomes all analogies. But the impulse to fill an emptiness opens almost every holy book across all cultures. The faceless Creatura (as Jung called it) abhors a vacuum. It itches to draw a line, to fasten a star, to wish a stone into shape. And what a strange shape, when first seen—that is, as we see it first in Maria Gutu’s collages.

In her book, Dear Apocalypse, the poet K.A. Hays (who we’ve paired with Gutu’s photographs) grapples with a similar emptiness, or threat of emptiness, always at work in ourselves. How to tell that story? We try with books, but the narratives are often too clean, too tidy, to resemble the outer universe, much less the inner:

. . . how unlike them we are—
our titles clashing with our plots,
bits of narration missing or absurd.
More saddening is the thought of after,

when this stint is done and some other species
stomps and sings here. Of course there will be no one
to read our ruins—only some bugs who have no sense
of the tragic. . . .

Gutu and Hays take us to the edges, where the creative process remains marvelously unfinished, jagged, unbalanced, bewildered, alive.


MARIA GUTU

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DEAR APOCALYPSE

Gust through—    good. Give us
over to the oaks,    sway the old
sheds, the mansions—    shake them down
to meadows,    unmake us, melt off
what was wasted    of our waking years—
but know    we’re no worse
than former fools.    You could have felled us
a millennium back,    blasted and bludgeoned—
you’re late.    Level us, but let it be
put in stone    (or penciled on plastic):
Here lie some bodies    who bear no blame
for any faults    the future may find
at rest in their ruins.    Remember: we had
a god who grumbled    through us, gave us
his face, held us—    fisted, we like to feel—
even as he ended us.    Excuse him.
He was, like any other man,    complicated.

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LETTER FROM THE END OF THE WORLD

They must have wearied of looking in on us,
the meridians. They shook the earth’s rugs
and broke away. Now we must be like saints,

barefoot and flexible. We ache for the years we fought

for our gods, before this wind
began playing our landmarks, felling
our churches, mosques, synagogues, lobbing

the bricks and stones skyward. It is terrible,

we say in every language
as it spins down homes and schools
and juggles the ruins—.

We wail like children on the beach

who had intended to slow spoil of a city
of sand, but were slighted by the sea
flinging through too soon. Too soon:

Meridians, you who guided and lulled us,
we accuse you.

Your spines left circular runnels
in the sky, through which we can see the great arbiter,
as bland and ready as a cast-iron pan—in whose image

we fear, squinting, we were not made.

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MEANWHILE

All of us, every one,
will be dissolved not long from now.

Meanwhile we tuck away the winter’s claims,
put photos in a box, look elsewhere.
It is not as difficult as it would seem

to shrug off the dead. Half the population
could go in fires—ah, we would say, but look,
the snowdrops hang their brows
beneath the shrubs, a sign of spring!
And the winged insects, hatching.
There will be a disasters special
on the news tonight—we will mourn then.

Now the grackles have returned.
I hear their hideous clacking
as they slam about in packs, settling
in the stripped branches—moving
as if an equation, perfect. That is how
we must live: mathematically,
like seedlings in the shade of the old ash,
waiting for rot, when we will fight
for a place to grow.

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LETTER FROM THE AFTERNOON

One assumes the universe
slags on with its business,
thought it seems to have wearied of late
and only that monster, the cane begonia,
with jagged leaves like the wings of vultures,
hurries up to the windows overlooking the street.

It doesn’t bother with this room
or its shelves of books.
It ignores the gold embossing
on their spines. We reach for them—
crushing, how unlike them we are—
our titles clashing with our plots,
bits of narration missing or absurd.
More saddening is the thought of after,

when this stint is done and some other species
stops and sings here. Of course there will be no one
to read our ruins—only some bugs who have no sense
of the tragic. Some think after our extinction
earth might be calm—but I doubt it.
The begonia, with its red undersides
and sly roots, hulks on, an ordinary zealot,
shading out the philodendron, hoarding sun.

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IN THE GARDEN

Afternoons past three o’clock, the orchard shrugs.
The unripe apples look jaded and the air
tastes like fruit fermented. Afternoons
make us listless things, overripe. Why is it?

And soon the rattler, tomorrow, will swallow us,
its skin first gold, then brown, then shed. . . . Pluck,

heave me away to the compost. Afternoons I need
to talk epistemology with something ugly
and inanimate: the earth, for example.


All photographs © Maria Gutu, featured with permission of artist.
All poems © K.A. Hays, featured with permission of artist.

v2.7 / The Primal Days of Alexander Binder

Sator Square #1

It can be read the same way up and down, left and right. This Latin palindrome, known as the Sator Square, was used once upon a time to beguile the devil with its incantatory rhythms. Unsurprisingly (?) the square cropped up in the supposed house of one Johann Georg Faust—THE Faust, that is, after which Marlowe’s and Goethe’s famous scholar was modeled.

Alexander Binder brings these Faustian enigmas to life in his series, Sator Arepo. The work, Binder explains, “is an ongoing photo-project (in cooperation with the Faust Museum) about the place where Johann Georg Faust was born, around 1480. It’s a tiny village in Southwest Germany, which has still today a very unique aura thanks to its timbered houses and old buildings.”

I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that Goethe could easily have been talking about these photographs when he wrote, “Alles vergängliche / Ist nur ein Gleichnis.” (Everything transitory is but an image.)


ALEXANDER BINDER
with excerpts from Goethe’s Faust read by Binder

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
from Sator Arepo © Alexander Binder

Der Herr der Ratten und der Mäuse,
Der Fliegen, Frösche, Wanzen, Läuse
Befiehlt dir, dich hervor zu wagen
Und diese Schwelle zu benagen,
So wie er sie mit Öl betupft-
Da kommst du schon hervorgehupft!
Nur frisch ans Werk! Die Spitze, die mich bannte,
Sie sitzt ganz vornen an der Kante.
Noch einen Biß, so ist’s geschehn.-
Nun, Fauste, träume fort, bis wir uns wiedersehn.

The Lord of Rats and Mice,
Of Flies, Frogs, Bugs and Lice,
Summons you to venture here,
And gnaw the threshold where
He stains it with a little oil –
You’ve hopped, already, to your toil!
Now set to work! The fatal point,
Is at the edge, it’s on the front.
One more bite, then it’s complete –
Now Faust, dream deeply, till we meet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
from Sator Arepo © Alexander Binder

Die Sonne tönt, nach alter Weise,
In Brudersphären Wettgesang,
Und ihre vorgeschriebne Reise
Vollendet sie mit Donnergang.
Ihr Anblick gibt den Engeln Stärke,
Wenn keiner Sie ergründen mag;
die unbegreiflich hohen Werke
Sind herrlich wie am ersten Tag.

The sun sings out, in ancient mode,
His note among his brother-spheres,
And ends his predetermined road,
With peals of thunder for our ears.
The sight of him gives angels power,
Though none can understand the way:
The inconceivable work is ours,
As bright as on the primal day.

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from Sator Arepo © Alexander Binder

Den Himmel über mir und unter mir die Wellen.
Ein schöner Traum, indessen sie entweicht.
Ach! zu des Geistes Flügeln wird so leicht
Kein körperlicher Flügel sich gesellen.

Heaven above me: and the waves below,
A lovely dream, although it vanishes.
Ah! wings of the mind, so weightless
No bodily wings could ever be so.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
from Sator Arepo © Alexander Binder

Ein Feuerwagen schwebt, auf leichten Schwingen,
An mich heran! Ich fühle mich bereit,
Auf neuer Bahn den Äther zu durchdringen,
Zu neuen Sphären reiner Tätigkeit.

A fiery chariot sweeps nearer
On light wings! I feel ready, free
To cut a new path through the ether
And reach new spheres of pure activity.

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from Sator Arepo © Alexander Binder

Geheimnisvoll am lichten Tag
Läßt sich Natur des Schleiers nicht berauben,
Und was sie deinem Geist nicht offenbaren mag,
Das zwingst du ihr nicht ab mit Hebeln und mit Schrauben.
Du alt Geräte, das ich nicht gebraucht,
Du stehst nur hier, weil dich mein Vater brauchte.

Mysterious, even in broad daylight,
Nature won’t let her veil be raised:
What your spirit can’t bring to sight,
Won’t by screws and levers be displayed.
You, ancient tools, I’ve never used
You’re here because my father used you

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
from Sator Arepo © Alexander Binder

Wenn sich der Mensch, die kleine Narrenwelt
Gewöhnlich für ein Ganzes hält-
Ich bin ein Teil des Teils, der anfangs alles war
Ein Teil der Finsternis, die sich das Licht gebar
Das stolze Licht, das nun der Mutter Nacht
Den alten Rang, den Raum ihr streitig macht,
Und doch gelingt’s ihm nicht, da es, so viel es strebt,
Verhaftet an den Körpern klebt.

Even if man’s accustomed to take
His small world for the whole, that’s his mistake:
I’m part of the part, that once was – everything,
Part of the darkness, from which light, issuing,
Proud light, emergent, disputed the highest place
With its mother night, the bounds of space,
And yet won nothing, however hard it tried,
Still stuck to bodily things, and so denied.


Ornamental Section Break

Follow Alexander Binder on Facebook and Instagram! And check out Binder’s photobook, Kristall ohne Liebe at Tangerine Press.

Source: German version of FAUST
DigBib.Org: Die digitale Bibliothek

Source: English translation of FAUST
Poetry in Translation
Translation into English by A. S. Kline
© Copyright 2003 A. S. Kline

v2.5 / Stephan Brigidi Unbound

In the deep fall, the body awakes,

And we find lions on the seashore—

Nothing to fear.

The wind rises; water is born,

Spreading white tomb-clothes on a rocky shore,

Drawing us up

From the bed of the land.

 

These lines come from a poem Robert Bly wrote about Stephan Brigidi‘s Angels of Pompeii.* They return to me now, in the company of Women & Rope, because in both series, the “deep fall” wakes the body “from the bed of  the land.” Hence the angels. But there are lions too—call the lion what you will: the eruption of Vesuvius, the serpents of Laocoön, or as Brigidi recognizes below, the emotional impotence we sometimes struggle to escape. There’s such strength in these images. Something bound has been loosed, which is the only difference I can imagine between an angel and a lion.


Stephan Brigidi

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from “Women & Rope” © Stephan Brigidi

The origins of this small group of photographs, comes from a 16mm film I made in 1975 called Le Sacre. The 7-minute film was based upon a man who was not connected to his own feelings. I presented a rather detached man, who was unable to express himself in any emotional way. I realized this as a common male plight, where so often his feelings are internalized. The man remains impotent to his own experience.

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from “Women & Rope” © Stephan Brigidi

One sequence from the film presents two women in a playful tussle of temptations with each other, a rope binding them together, or binding them apart from the man who is incapable of any attachment to the sensations the women evoke.

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from “Women & Rope” © Stephan Brigidi

Later that same year, I spent about five months in Rome, working and teaching. I became well acquainted with Gian Lorenzo Bernini, master of human form and gesture. The Greek sculpture Laocoön is another archetype that influenced my work. I then traveled to Paris and visited with August Rodin, who imbued in me a deep provocation and appreciation for the body’s inner psyche. I knew that my still photography would build from these examples.

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from “Women & Rope” © Stephan Brigidi

My work became a three-month continuous study of the two models with a lengthy rope, amounting to a thousand negatives made and considered. Women & Rope culminated in a short suite of eight prints that spoke to my curiosities of human form and the enigma of human emotion.

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from “Women & Rope” © Stephan Brigidi

I have always admired women for their natural ability to emote and connect together. We men have much to learn from our sisters.

* Robert Bly and I collaborated on a portfolio of prints and poems called 8 Angels of Pompeii in 1991.  We later produced a small book together simply called, Angels of Pompeii published by Ballantine Books 1992.

v2.3 Paula Rae Gibson w/ Lyrics

I’ve never been much for academic detachment when it comes to . . . anything. Maybe that’s why Paula Rae Gibson’s work grabs me. Her photographs bear traces of unrepentant attachment: scratches, scrapes, stains, abrasions, frictions, erosions, wear and tear. It’s as if the photographer were trying to get back in, knowing it’s only a photograph, but resolved, nevertheless, on the impossible.

And why not? “Impossible” seems as good a synonym as any for “love,” and there’s a love song at the heart of this series. Gibson, a jazz singer as well as a photographer, pairs her images with lyrics from her own music. Naturally, we might experience these images as a soundtrack to one person’s love life. But there’s something else here too. I hear it in phrases like “woman I want to be, woman I’ve got to be”—a mantra, a chant, a prayer, a yearning, an incantation . . . a rallying cry.


Paula Rae Gibson

heart-onthehook
Heart on the Hook © Paula Rae Gibson

the sound of your voice

penetrates, black

and blue. i

can’t                                                  stand i can’t

breath i cant bear to

live without

you,                     the echo

if
If © Paula Rae Gibson

you

never told

me, you never conveyed

the words

. . .                                                       you never made me

feel

safe. how do you think

it makes

me

the-faith-and-the-fears
The Faith & the Fears [Factory of Fear] © Paula Rae Gibson

tables of whispers, elbows

meeting as she

enters, accused of being

too much herself, of not giving

a damn about

any                                                                                                                                                       body

else

and not being a part

of their factory

of fear, guy at the end

over by the drink,

blew her mind                                                 . . .

she wanted,

she disappeared.

ratherbeweakinyourarms
Rather Be Weak in Your Arms © Paula Rae Gibson

you go

on and on about

power, about tower                                             ing over

the rest, i need

fresh                                                                                        air to caress me

disappearing
Disappearing © Paula Rae Gibson

run thru

me, rush thru veins,

woman        i

want to be

when i think of him . . . let all

my passion be

spent,

woman i want to be

woman I’ve got

to be when


In this short film, Like I Love, Gibson interviews a group of women in Paris who share their own lyrical insights about love.

Follow Gibson on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

And be sure to check out Gibson’s beautiful monograph, Rae: A Pictorial Love Song, available through Eyemazing Editions!