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Enchambered

Enchambered

illumination, 1996

I am often asked, “How long does it take you to make an image?” Some take as less than an hour, some take years. In one sense every image has taken me the lifetime I’ve led in order to be realized. Enchambered is one of those images that evolved over quite some time. Unlike others that came in a lightning flash, unlike others that slipped through my fingers at every turn until completion, this one arrived in the first few moments largely realized but took years to finally resolve.

As soon as I saw it I liked the environment. A cliff became a cave. A flat wall suddenly presented an enclosed space. Its stained and chiseled surfaces presented marvelous calligraphy and carving. The environment was firmly established. The stage was set. It needed an actor.

Light became a powerful factor. Light from above became a light from within. An external light became an internal light. The light defied easy description. It came from below, but more importantly it came from within the central enclosure. Its source begged to be made visible. I tried several objects as possible sources of light. None seemed quite right. I settled on a tiny pale fox tooth that looked like a crown. It almost glowed. It could have been the source of light but something was still lacking. I added light. It was good. I lived with the image for quite some time before realizing the object was not needed. The image had become too loaded. It would be better if the actor were stripped down to the light alone. I removed the tooth. I added a new light. And it was better. The true inhabitant of the space was more clearly revealed. It was less descriptive but far more suggestive. The mystery of the image blossomed. It came alive.

It was all a matter of space. Placing the light was critical. First, a custom shape from two separate lens flares was created. Second, size was determined. Initially too small, then too large, it found its resting place when its circumference touched the chamber’s walls on four sides. It reminded me of the idea of squaring the circle. Third, the light was held back selectively from the walls. When the flare flooded all four directions — above, below, to the left, and to the right — it hovered in front of all the elements, veiling them. When the flare was contained to the dark space between the walls, it fell behind, no longer the primary source of illumination. When the flare was withheld from the walls below, it sat above them. When the effect was diminished, but not withheld from the outer walls and left to bloom within the inner walls, it fell to rest within the center of the chamber. It found its place.

I had no idea the image would ultimately take me in a new direction. Though some incorporate drawn elements, I am cautious about creating digitally generated images or including rendered objects in my images, which are photographically based. Photographic information is far richer than anything I have seen generated. Still, these flares can be beautiful. Several times I’ve been tempted to create images with flares alone. So much for formula. Inspiration is anything but predictable.