Ghost Waltz, Volume 2: Illumination
“What would be the significance of the candlelight, if there were no darkness? What would be the power of the stars over our minds, if there were no night?”
— C. JoyBell C.
Of Being Numerous: Sections 1-4, 10-11, 22
There are things
We live among ‘and to see them
Is to know ourselves’.
Occurrence, a part
Of an infinite series,
The sad marvels;
Of this was told
A tale of our wickedness.
It is not our wickedness.
‘You remember that old town we went to, and we sat in the ruined window, and we tried to imagine that we belonged to those times—It is dead and it is not dead, and you cannot imagine either its life or its death; the earth speaks and the salamander speaks, the Spring comes and only obscures it—’
So spoke of the existence of things,
An unmanageable pantheon
Absolute, but they say
A city of the corporations
And the pure joy
Of the mineral fact
Tho it is impenetrable
As the world, if it is matter,
The emotions are engaged
Entering the city
As entering any city.
We are not coeval
With a locality
But we imagine others are,
We encounter them. Actually
A populace flows
Thru the city.
This is a language, therefore, of New York
For the people of that flow
Are new, the old
New to age as the young
And to their dwelling
For which the tarred roofs
And the stoops and doors—
A world of stoops—
Are petty alibi and satirical wit
Will not serve.
Or, in that light, New arts! Dithyrambic, audience-as-artists! But I will listen to a man, I will listen to a man, and when I speak I will speak, tho he will fail and I will fail. But I will listen to him speak. The shuffling of a crowd is nothing—well, nothing but the many that we are, but nothing.
Urban art, art of the cities, art of the young in the cities—The isolated man is dead, his world around him exhausted
And he fails! He fails, that meditative man! And indeed they cannot ‘bear’ it.
it is that light
Seeps anywhere, a light for the times
In which the buildings
Stand on low ground, their pediments
Just above the harbor
Hollow, available, you could enter any building,
You could look from any window
One might wave to himself
From the top of the Empire State Building—
If you can
The girl’s name is Phyllis—
Coming home from her first job
On the bus in the bare civic interior
Among those people, the small doors
Opening on the night at the curb
Her heart, she told me, suddenly tight with happiness—
So small a picture,
A spot of light on the curb, it cannot demean us
I too am in love down there with the streets
And the square slabs of pavement—
To talk of the house and the neighborhood and the docks
And it is not ‘art’
In the sense of transparence,
I don’t mean that much can be explained
Clarity in the sense of silence.
— George Oppen
Within my photography work two of my main drivers are feelings of discovery and retrospection. New York City's architecture is full of layers of history. Rabid development continues to destroy historical buildings at an unprecedented rate. My current urban photography series Ghost Waltz was born from searching for New York City's past eras before they vanish. With influences such as photographers Brassaï, David Vestal, silent films and spirituality, I shoot the city in a manner that recalls modernist, early 20th century photography and examines the overwhelming psychic effect of being inside “the belly of the beast”.
Ghost Waltz, Volume II: Illumination focuses on the light within the darkness. The city often renders us anonymous to each other, and with Volume II, I look to identify individual figures as they step into the light, making their features (and thus their personas) visible. Shot on 35mm monochrome film, the increased contrast when shooting at night gives a view into an atmospheric world full of contradistinction. The city around them, with its windows and open doors acting as spotlights, magnify human beings heavy with the weight of contemplation. The darkness surrounding them “shuts off the light”, sort-to-speak, whereas the lighted windows illuminate their presence, giving testimony to their very real lives and identities. The tense interplay of light and shadow is reflected in the faces of the burdened, both calm yet heavy with thought. We are all pushing to head somewhere, within the city or within our lives, but the question remains—do we really know where it is we are going?
The existential crisis inherent within city life continues to be examined within the dynamics of stark light and dark, enacting a dramatic tension. Existentialism can be described as “A sense of disorientation, confusion, or dread in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world.” (Robert C. Solomon, Existentialism, pp. 1–2). Within these buildings one feels dislocated, bewildered, and isolated. We live both individually and anonymously, constricted by an environment that threatens to swallow us whole. These feelings are illustrated within the chosen stanzas of George Oppen’s 1968 poetic opus Of Being Numerous: Sections 1-4, 10-11, 22.