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Approximate Knowledge

As it has for many others, the magic of being surprised by the photographic image has kept me intensely interested in the medium for decades. Frequently I have framed or assembled subject matter that requires the viewer to look twice to consider what the image is really about or to discern the nature of the subject’s reality (actual or fictive). Very early work that posed this sort of visual question was achieved by printing multiple negatives, the creation of still life compositions that included enigmatic elements, or an oblique framing of the subject. In Approximate Knowledge, I continued to use some of these strategies because they remained relevant to what has been an abiding wonder at the evanescence of things and our shifting, often uncertain, though at times deeply felt response to them. Perhaps the best photographs are akin to lyric poetry in the way the images affect us. They arrest our gaze and make something that we might take for granted once again new and sometimes unforgettably mysterious.


Some of the pictures in Approximate Knowledge have accompanying poems. Some have joined the series through a kind of family resemblance, and perhaps they await their own poems. In marrying images and words, I like to think that the two function as relatively equal partners; the visual and the verbal are complementary, but each also can stand alone. The series' images are intended to be enigmatic, disclosing possible narratives that are left hinted at and incomplete. Accompanying poems invariably direct the viewer toward possible interpretations. The series' title points to the difficulty of arriving at knowledge that is ever entirely complete, fixed, or accurate. Yet it is through approximations, often kindled by the imagination, that we are able to make at least partial sense of what we experience.


The series was originally shown at the Art Association of Harrisburg's Edward C. Michener Gallery, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 2005. Pictures from the series have been shown in juried exhibitions throughout the United States.

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