Photographs are tied to place, and my normal practice is to revisit a place repeatedly, attempting to know and see it better. Perhaps less obviously, photographs are also tied to time. Some of the most striking are tied to a moment that can never return. But that’s seldom the case for me: usually the relevant time is seasonal, and will probably recur next year for perhaps a week or, if I’m lucky, a month. The photograph here, though, had unusually stringent constraints: it could only be made within a few minutes of sunrise on a couple days of the year, when the sun is behind a certain tree about twenty-five yards from my office window.

When I first made such a photograph, in 2006, I was simply intrigued by the pattern of light and shade. And that’s mainly what kept me on the lookout for the phenomenon in 2007. But we’d also had recent discussions about self-portraits on A&P (from Richard and Sunil), and that idea was also in my mind. Not that I was trying to make any definitive statement, but I thought that one aspect of myself might come through, namely the inscrutable me gazing on the world, thoughts (if any) vague and inexpressible. The self-conscious quality is not inappropriate. The ironic title of this post also dates from last summer. Doubly ironic, as the subject is not exactly me, but a shadow of me cast on a wall.

I happened to notice the stored image this weekend, and I realized that my formal interest in the optical effect was related to my not-quite-explicit attempts to play with interesting and unsharp textures, which are also at the fore in both recent and early work.


Oddly, to me that minor artistic realization feels more important, at least for now, than “deeper” questions of identity or epistemology. Perhaps that’s because a big part of my current identity is, in fact, about trying to understand what I’m doing artistically.

In time I may come to appreciate it more, but for me and for now this potentially meaningful work seems to have a more surface importance. I would rather make an apparently superficial photograph that slowly reveals its deeper significance.

How do you like your profound meaning in art? Should it come announced or sneak up on you?