My focus in making pictures like those in the perimeter series has more to do with thinking about and acting on how they are made than what I pointed the camera at or when I clicked the shutter. The how begins with the choice of capture device. It includes how the device is setup and used through all the steps of making images, compositing those images and adjusting local relationships. It ends with designing the way the picture finally is displayed. The cumulative answers to these methodology questions are the heart of my work. It is in that work I feel I am truly building a picture that is mine.
Nearly a decade ago, working with a camera that by today’s standards would be considered low resolution, I became interested in increasing the amount of visual information in my images. I began to layer overlapping exposures to achieve that goal. I manually aligned adjacent frames, blending the common information; a time consuming effort. That laborious process yielded images whose edges were imperfectly aligned. Like homemade vacation panoramas assembled with tape and posted on the refrigerator door, my pictures were no longer simple rectangles. My layered and assembled exposures had irregular, polygon-shaped edges.
While I was busy hand building these composite images, others were busy creating software that combined overlapping images automatically. One of the features of some of this software is the availability of optional algorithms that determine how the images are stitched together. Like the many different systems map makers have devised for rendering a view of the 3-D earth on 2-D sheets of paper, these algorithms blend individual exposures to unite them in different projections.
Once I began to employ image stitching software, these additional algorithmic variables dramatically expanded my compositional choices. Now, the complicated polygon edges began to bend.
I quickly became infatuated with the contribution these unique shapes made to the overall composition, uniting individual images into a final shared shape that was quite noticeably not a rectangle. The perimeter series explores ways of composing an image while shooting individual images and then executing the planned composition so the shape of the composite picture’s edge has an intentional relationship to the internal elements of the image. Composing within non-rectilinear shapes became one of the unifying elements in the perimeter series.
Other considerations also frame this series of images. In this work, I sought compositional gestures and broad brush strokes; details of scene and subtle tonalities were not relevant. To freshen my approach, I decided to work quickly and at a smaller scale than had been my recent practice.
All these choices led me to choose a low resolution capture system; something I could keep on hand effortlessly as I moved through my ordinary daily rounds. I have not gone out of my way to make the source photographs for the perimeter series; all are products of daily dog walks along the lake shore or in a dog park.
Once the basic decisions about image content and shape were made and the source photographs were taken, I composited them. With that framework in place, I began the process of making changes to local characteristics within the picture.
This is not unfamiliar territory for anyone who has done even basic darkroom work. Essentially, I lighten and darken portions of the image to change tonal relationships, a step that is analogous to mechanical dodging and burning techniques used in traditional wet lab photo processing. Unlike the use of these tools in a darkroom where everything must be accomplished hurriedly during exposure in the enlarger, digital tools afford the ability to address every desired change at a measured, contemplative pace.
In this phase of the work I made aesthetic choices about changes like darkening up a slice of sky, making the leaves in a certain spot a bit more yellow, or increasing the contrast in the foreground and reducing it near the horizon.
The decision to work in lower resolution provided immediacy and gave me the ability to work in a much more improvisational style. Lower resolution files can be manipulated more deftly, allowing for much greater efficiency in iterating developmental steps in building the composite image.
Asking myself questions about what I intend to do leads me to doing things I enjoy. With regard to the perimeter series, my primary questions had to do with how to make non-rectilinear images that successfully integrate the outside shape of the picture with the elements that are contained by that shape; how to exploit the capabilities of a low resolution device to the final picture’s advantage; and how to use things I notice as I go about my life as source material with which to make pictures.