While on a bit of a hiatus from the website during the pandemic, I had some time to focus on a project that is near and dear to me; Fractal Cityscapes. My Fractal Cityscape series was born out of a large project I did in Pittsburgh, the multi-million dollar renovation of the Union Trust Building, about 4 or 5 years ago. The commission was one of my favorites in that I had latitude to create what I wanted to create without much direction (every artists dream). The mission was simple, create massive images (10′ x 36′) that best captured the diversity of the city of Pittsburgh and would remain interesting to people who saw them everyday for many years (I’m over simplifying the actual mission since this article isn’t about that, but you get the point). Fast forward about 5 years and many commissions later and the project has grown to over a dozen cities and over 240 images, one installation even clocks in at four stories high.
The images are an elaborate take on multiple exposure images in that there are many images, sometimes 1, 5, 10, or even 20 laid on top of one another. I retain the integrity of each image opting not to cut or chop them up in Photoshop and utilizing the otherwise distracting elements to create an almost painterly/abstract look. To me, the images are symbolic of how my mind works. I’ve never really had a great memory and tend to hold onto the big memorable moments through life. My Fractal Cityscape images are what I imagine it would be like if I could only take all of those big memorable moments of a place and put them together in one place. Naturally, to capture all of those moments I’ve got to take hundreds, sometimes thousands, of images of the many diverse people and neighborhoods in and around a place. Once I complete a commission the majority of those images go into my archive and rarely see the light of day… Until a major pandemic happens.
When the pandemic hit I was burned out. I had just completed one of the most difficult projects in my photography career and I was ready to hang it up for a while. It was the first time I tabled my cameras in over a decade. I passed on a couple of projects and postponed the rest until 2021 (it was March of 2020 when I made that decision). I figured if I couldn’t find the passion again I was going to hang it up for good, choosing to focus on photographing for the pure joy of it rather than dealing with the anxiety that comes free of charge with being an artist. After about a month of feeling sorry for myself, I put on my big boy pants and got down to brass tacks. I switched to film cameras, exploring the small towns around Pittsburgh, and developing the film in my kitchen sink. Between rediscovering my passion for photography, developing film, and navigating the pandemic, I also rediscovered my archive of images from the various cities.
Charleston was the first city my wife and I flew to after we had Benji, my son. He was only about 9 months old and my wife was a real trooper as she entertained him for the majority of the trip while I worked. I don’t remember a ton about that trip but I do remember it rained almost the entire time. I was soaked day in and day out but Charleston is beautiful and I didn’t have time to wait for things to dry up. I ended up with over a thousand images and about 5 that I liked… If that sounds like bad odds, keep shooting. The longer you do this the more critical of your work you get.
My idea has always been that at some point I will circle back and dig through this seemingly massive archive and find a use for the bench warmer images but life happens and unless you have time to stand still, you’re always moving forward… And then the pandemic. Essentially, it was as if someone hit the pause button on life. The pressure to move forward, create, etc. was gone and I felt I finally had the time to dig deep into the archive and revisit some of these old projects.
The images you see here are from that archive, they are moments of time captured but left behind in the steady cadence of life. It was incredibly edifying to go back and revisit a time that was but a distant memory already and create these images. As I worked with them and massaged them together, brief pieces of memory struck me like light through the broken canopy of a forest on an early morning. I could feel the dampness on my hands as I held the cold brass of my Leica, taste the salt from the sea, smell the variety of flowers and trees you only find down South, and hear the cars tires vibrating on the cobble stone streets.
By design, each image focused on the architecture front and center as that is one of the most memorable aspects of Charleston to me. The contrast/variety of colors, juxtaposition of shapes, and the palpable history baked into the sun faded facia of each building was what I wanted to convey with these. If you’d like to see some of the “keeper” street photography images I created you can check out a previous article I wrote shortly after visiting Charleston here.
Hopefully I didn’t ramble on too much above, I really just wanted to share a bit of what I’ve been working on over the past year. In the future, I hope to share more like this as well as current work I’m tackling and what I learn along the way. The website will be changing slightly to make it less cluttered, eliminate much of the affiliate links and advertising, and refocusing on the passion of photography. Feel free to follow my current work on Instagram @PhotolisticLife and add your thoughts in the comments section below. Until next time, take care.