Underlying Notions

The photographic arts are founded upon the interaction of light and materials to produce an image. This interaction between photon and atom, energy and matter, the ephemeral and the concrete, finds a parallel in human life itself– the interaction of the spiritual and the physical. My own art is grounded in this interaction, this crossing, of the unseen and the seen. The more I photograph, the more I appreciate the rich significance of this interaction.
FIRMAMENT, © 2011, Bill Brockmeier, all rights reserved
My first exposure to the art and science of photography was probably at the age of three.  I remember sitting on my Mom's lap in the dim, red darkness of the "safe-light," down in my parents' amateur darkroom that they had set up in our basement.  My Dad manned the enlarger, projecting a negative image onto the photographic paper in the easel below it.  After he handed the exposed print to my Mom, I then watched in awe as a black and white image of our family magically materialized before me in the porcelain-enameled developer tray.  The rich, pungent chemical aromas of developer and stop-bath and hypo swirled around me and combined into a brew of other-worldly perfume.

Such an initial contact with the photographic process was an auspicious entrance for me into this art– first discovered by Joseph Niepce in France.  I suspect that the magic of seeing light itself paint an image was as entrancing and magical for him as it was– and still is– for me.

Light, although it can be seen (of course it can be seen– in fact, light is all we CAN see!), seems fleeting, ephemeral, untouchable, and pretty much inscrutable.  This "stuff" is all around us and the conduit by which we mostly perceive the external world, and yet it is a mystery that still baffles us.  It is not surprising that many cultures, when first confronted with those who those who sought their portraits with a camera, believed their souls were being taken in a box, and captured on a piece of paper.  Photographers, even now, casually speak of "capturing" a portrait or a scene.

A photograph is a thin, flimsy record of physical reality.  It has very little of the rich depth and weight of even the briefest moment of the smallest piece of the real physical universe; and yet, as an art, it can be a powerful tool for expressing the inexpressible thoughts and emotions and longings of the human mind and heart and spirit.  Just as light itself is our conduit for perceiving and understanding the external world, so photography can be a conduit for perceiving and understanding the world within.


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