The Meaning of (Be)Longing

It is dif­fi­cult for me to express in words what I see in those land­scapes. I am cer­tain that there are sev­er­al inter­con­nec­ted lay­ers in my see­ing, to which I react emo­tion­ally. In its first express­ive lay­er, (Be)Longing lets me show beauty and serenity of places that are rather for­bid­ding to a man. I am curi­ous about the mag­net­ic attrac­tion of a desert in which one step too far under the Delicate Arch is a step towards death. Why do the slot canyons of the Navajo land fas­cin­ate with their paint­erly, unique beauty, while stand­ing in them in a heav­ier rain leads to a tragedy? The dif­fi­culty of liv­ing in many of the places that I have been record­ing is as sheer as our souls’ yearn­ing to belong to them. The fur­ther I am from the arid Mojave the more I long for it. Circumstances caused those forces to remain sep­ar­ate. My pho­to­graphs let me, and I hope the view­ers, exper­i­ence the exal­ta­tion of a moment when those feel­ings join each oth­er in an image.

My fas­cin­a­tion with the primev­al artist­ic aspect of geo­logy forms the second express­ive lay­er in this series. Landscape of the Colorado Plateau, which spans Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California, has been shaped by an inter­est­ing geo­lo­gic­al coin­cid­ence based on a triple emer­gence and dis­ap­pear­ance of a large inland sea. This phe­nomen­on had been reflec­ted in a trip­lic­a­tion of ele­ments of cre­ation of moun­tain­ous and desert land­scapes. Hence, look­ing at the majesty of the Grand Canyon one can see three sim­il­ar, but not identic­al lay­ers con­sist­ing of a fur­ther three lay­ers: lime­stone, sand­stone, and red shale — nine visu­al notes in three grand bars. In a sim­il­ar man­ner, through a tire­less repeat­ing, eras­ing, and again repeat­ing of erosion nature has made those unusu­al slot canyon walls such as in Canyon X. It seems to me that this geo­lo­gic­al aspect of the land­scape interests me the most as it con­tains a note of aes­thet­ics that has influ­enced art, archi­tec­ture, and cul­ture. Whilst this would be an over­sim­pli­fic­a­tion, Grand Canyon could be related to Cubism, Yosemite relates to the paint­ings of early Romanticism, Canyon X reminds of Kandinsky, and one can hear Johann Strauss II in the Delicate Arch. These are my feel­ings, which I pho­to­graph and record as anoth­er express­ive lay­er in my works.

I hope that my pho­to­graphs would not only bring fam­ous nat­ur­al objects closer to view­ers but also arouse a curi­os­ity about their impact on the artist­ic cre­ativ­ity of our civil­iz­a­tion. I am inter­ested in the ques­tion of the prim­al ori­gin­al­ity of the objects I have been show­ing and their fun­da­ment­al role in art and cul­ture. Is all man-made art deriv­at­ive in its nature? How false, per­haps, is our feel­ing of com­plete ori­gin­al­ity? Of course, I ask myself those ques­tions being fully aware of the tech­nic­ally repro­duct­ive nature of pho­to­graphy. Could such a repro­duc­tion ever be ori­gin­al? Could any paint­er or a com­poser be truly ori­gin­al or do they also repro­duce some­thing that had exis­ted before? Thinking about those ques­tions helps me recon­cile the influ­ence American twen­ti­eth cen­tury pho­to­graph­ers have had on me. I hope, how­ever, that my view­ers would appre­ci­ate a dif­fer­ence — one that is dear to me — between the illus­trat­ive and pictori­al form of expres­sion of the pho­to­graphs of those times and the more abstract approach deman­ded by the cul­ture of the early twenty-first cen­tury.

I would not wish to impose a par­tic­u­lar inter­pret­a­tion of my pho­to­graphs. I hope that the view­er can return to them more than once giv­ing them time to show their depth.

Karolina Vyšata inter­viewed me in October 2010 for a photo book that accom­pan­ies the (Be)Longing exhib­i­tion, which she has cur­ated. This was her ori­gin­al ques­tion, which I have answered above:

The (Be)Longing series com­prises frag­ments of a par­tic­u­lar land­scape. How do you per­ceive the nature that you pho­to­graph? Are you fas­cin­ated only by the aes­thet­ics of the land­scape and its wil­der­ness or do you also study it from a nat­ur­al sci­ence per­spect­ive? What do you wish to con­vey through your pho­to­graphs?

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