"Excavated Archives "
January 4 - February 16, 2013
Helen DeVitt Jones Studio Gallery
The problematic nature of official archives has been widely debated, often centered on the hidden agendas and biased histories that they present. But there are many kinds of archives besides those that are official; and none are exactly impartial. Most collections are gathered by inclination; and no matter how the material has been brought together, those who eventually study it can’t help but bring their our own biases to reading and interpreting. Anyone who makes and saves photographs creates an archive of sorts; but those archives record the proclivities of the photographer as much as whatever subject the camera was pointed at. Even so, I imagine that an unintentional archive exists within the physical evidence of the world that surrounds us; and that the everyday situations we encounter hold the potential for yielding endless forms of interpretation. But even this depends on our attention, focus, and orientation.
Last summer I discovered about 30 rolls and several sheets of 8” x 10” black and white film that I had put into deep storage. I had exposed it long ago, but not developed it. It contained photographs made with an assortment of small to large format cameras and films during the 1980’s and 1990’s. After years of digital processing, it was strange returning to a darkroom to develop that film by hand just to see if any “latent images” remained. The 8” x 10” negatives were badly fogged, but, surprisingly, the 35mm and 120 roll films came out well enough to print.
I had intentionally set that film aside to see what would happen after time had passed. The results were interesting and prompted me to study the other photographs I had shot around the same time. About twenty percent of the images in this exhibition ended up being from those that I developed last summer. The rest were selected from negatives I had long ago filed away, shot from the late 1970’s through the mid-1990’s. Instead of rekindling memories while doing this I wanted to generate new frames of reference. I avoided picking images I had shown before; I wanted to see if there were “new” pictures among the “old” ones that I might have missed. I wondered if it were possible to produce a series that seemed relevant today from old images I had not originally intended to exhibit together. I also experimented with split-toned effects and color balances by printing these black and white images on a digital color printer.
The images from my files that are presented here record my recurring interest in the “landscape.” I think of landscape not as untouched nature but as an archive of our engagement and connection to the world--a mirror that reflects our changing hopes, fears, and knowledge of who we are and how we think we fit within the grand scheme of things. The situations I photograph indicate the different kinds of relations we have to time and place: my landscapes include interior and exterior settings, urban as well as rural, and the “psychological” and “social landscapes” we inhabit.
Time may seem frozen by a photograph, but the flow of time is unimpeded and photographs are always viewed within the contexts of when they are seen, and who is looking at them. A photograph may seem to record history or to provide a narrative with its visual evidence--but pictures are silent. It takes a viewer to create the stories and connect the dots between themselves and whatever it is they think they are seeing.
Rick Dingus, Lubbock, TX, 2012