LORNA BIEBER & BARBARA BOSWORTH & LAURA SALMON
from 04.11.1998 to 28.11.1998
Barbara Bosworth, Lorna Bieber, Laura Salmon
I wander the woods. I see things that make me feel death’s nearness.
A spot where a mountain lion stalked, killed and ate an elk, the snow around the carcass dark with blood.
An eagle, silently, from the sky, lights on a hare and without hesitation begins to tear apart flesh.
These scenes do not horrify or terrify me. The lion and eagle do not act out of malice or anger, but out of need, an instinct to survive.
The hunters I met in these wanderings reminded me of our own dependence on the earth for survival. Other lives happen and end so that I can live. I begin to photograph with these thoughts.
It seems in looking back all these wanderings and the photographs I made were to slowly, magically weave together for me to meet one man, a hunter, and eventually my lover. Through him I learned clearly and emphatically how we need death in order to live.
I was within thirty feet of him and had not known he was there. His dressing made him invisible. His voice, when he spoke, was that of Raven, Deer, or Elk, Eagle or Squirrel. He spoke all their languages. His movements, if any, were slow, meaningful, light, loving. He had learned them from the animals. We took our first walk together that day. As we scrambled over a fallen tree, I saw a snail shell at my feet. I reached to share this treasure with him. When we saw there was still a life in that shell, he bent to return it, not carelessly tossing it away, but replacing it in exactly the position I had found it, gently, so as not to disturb that life any further.
It was clear to me immediately he was a part of the woods. He was living what I wanted my pictures to show - that we are not separate and removed from the land, we are a part of nature, we need the earth to survive. As he became my life, my pictures began to revolve around him and the spirit he embodied. I photographed him in the last light of the summer solstice, I photographed him in the trees waiting for deer, I photographed him watching a sunset, picking huckleberries, sleeping by the fire under the tall cedars.
As a hunter he knew what it meant to take a life and never did so easily. One night he chose to end his own. He understood that life and death co-exist. In his soul, no matter how dark it had become, I am certain he knew his death meant life.
Photography allows me to record this dream called life. When I began making the photographs to explore life and death’s coexistence, I never imagined I would be so severely tested. The death of my partner I could not ignore or deny as my society has taught me I should. Instead, I was forced to believe what I was photographing; that death matters and that through death we live.
After his death, I desperately needed to hold on to all the life remaining around me - to pull it close to me. I held on tight to all the people in my life, even the new friends I made last year. I could not let go. Goodbyes, even over the phone, could not be said without tears. Afraid I would never see or talk to that person again. I could not let go. I began photographing every little thing around me. I photographed the scratch on the top of the table, the cut on Rosemary’s freshly shaven leg, the scar on my father’s chest where they opened him to save his life, my parent’s hands with their fifty year old wedding bands, my arm, the braces on my niece’s teeth, a pile of firewood, Nick smoking a cigarette, fireflies in a jar, my nephew. All of it. Everything. By securing my world in a photograph I convinced myself it could not totally be taken away from me. I became obsessed with the physical world and revelled in it. My photographs now are about that obsession.
Barbara Bosworth, 1998
Although I come from a background in painting I have been exploring alternative photographic processes and techniques since 1988 and have found it to be the perfect form of artist expression for me. My work does not subscribe to conventional photographic practices. All of my images are appropriated from various sources and any image I use goes through many stages of manipulation before being printed in its final form.
I have been working on the ”Rooms and Houses” photo series since 1991. In this series I appropriate images of private homes and public office spaces that were originally photographed by anonymous photographers for commercial publications. These images in their original state had no artistic intention and were chosen because they struck an emotional cord in me. There is a narrative an cinematic quality to these spaces and though they are empty of action and figures they are charged with the tension of a palpable, invisible presence. There is a strong sense that something has just occurred or is about to occur within these settings. They are infused with a sense of longing and loss and evoke memories both real and imagined.
One of the most satisfying moments in my career came when Barbara Head Millstein, Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs at The Brooklyn Museum of Art summed up my work with this statement, ”Bieber has found a way through the manipulation of technical creativity to enter our deepest memory banks and gently prod our emotional response … with elegance and just a touch of dread.”
Lorna Bieber, 1998
How lucky that we have photography to help us see and remember. Here are children’s rooms. In a year or two, the children will transform them as they transform themselves. They are like this only now and as they change, we would surely forget what they once were. The rooms are profoundly expressive. We can imagine how much might be imposed by the parents and how much is the expression of the child himself, merely living his life. We see how the child surrounds himself, we can guess at the identity being explored through the objects displayed.
Within the tremendous personal variation - neat, wild, profuse, sparse - there are cultural artifacts. We can see evidence of the expectations parents have for childhood. The desire for their children’s success is manifested in puzzles, alphabet posters and educational toys. The desire for their children’s happiness - and the monetary means to satisfy - is attested to in the abundance of store-bought costumes and dolls, the gleaming plastic cars, Åthe SONY CD-players and overflowing baskets of stuffed bears and puppies.
Within this overflow one finds the children’s own particular treasures. The children can be relentless consumers. Collections of the latest fad and status markers are amassed. There are elaborate scenarios of doll families and TV Action Figures. Shelves display sports trophies and school awards, witness to quantifiable achievements. On display, too, is artwork, party invitations, the comfortable animals that merit a position on the bed. Rejected toys gather dust under the bed or lie forgotten at the back of a shelf.
In some of the rooms, we can see childhood meet adolescence. Posters of teen idols intrude on the world of kittens and stuffed animals. Icons of popular culture can be beacons of identity. A bottle of anti-perspirant, displayed proudly on the bureau, attests to nascent sexuality. Some rooms seem pu ?t together for show, like a carefully chosen wardrobe. Others attest to a need for privacy. Clothing and toys strewn and discarded (or stacked and tidied) seem to create a habitat perfectly suited to the particular occupant.
Children are in some ways captive and subject to the rules and wiles of their families. At the same time, they exert a powerful force in the house, altering the very shape of family life. The rooms seem to hold all this.
I have been photographing children’s rooms for about a year. I have no criteria for selection - except that the families agree not to clean up the rooms. I am careful not to alter anything. I photograph what I find there. I do use artificial light when necessary. The children who live in these rooms range in age from about three to fifteen. They live in New York City and the surrounding suburbs. The families include a diverse ethnic and economic range.
Laura Salmon, 1998