Iraq, Presidential Elections, and Image Appropriation

Posted in Art, books, Photography, Politics on September 1, 2014 by briancarnold

So, if you scroll back about a year, you might recall that I am working on a book with Oxford University Press.  I am writing a text book on photographic processes – really what we call alternative processes (cyanotype, wet plate, platinum, etc.).


When I teach of my Alternative Processes in Photography class, I like to define “alternative processes” as the photographic techniques that never really had much commercial application, but nonetheless remain strong because of the aesthetic possibilities.


I just finished writing a draft chapter on low budget image transfer techniques – using different solvents, gesso, tape, etc. – to make and reconfigure photographic images.   As part of the introduction, I also write about the history of photographic image appropriation.


And in putting this chapter together, I went back into the storage shelves of my studio, and pulled down a little one of a kind book I made during 2003-2004, during the height of the Iraq war and the run-up to the Bush-Kerry presidential election.tape_lifts003

Each day, I’d buy a newspaper, and select one image.  Using only scotch tape, I’d lift fragments on these images off the newspaper pages, and then mount them in my book.


I found myself remarkably disenchanted with the war and propaganda machine put in place to keep it running.  I felt that if I found a new way to read the news, with these pieces and fragments I was putting together and recontextualizing, I could actually get a clearer understanding of all the information and misinformation I was reading every day.  And I was remarkably disillusioned with American culture and the manipulative tactics of my government.


It was satisfying to find this little book again, and I still rather like some of the fragments and images recreated on the pages.  I hope some of them make it into my book.





Posted in Art, Java, Photography with tags , , , on August 7, 2014 by briancarnold

So I spent three months in Bali and Java this past spring.  Most of that trip is documented on another of my blogs.


My time in Indonesia, from a professional perspective, was wildly successful.  I am quite pleased with the photographs I made, as well as the different collaborative projects I developed.

#3Brian_Arnold_Flying Kites

When I returned, as an attempt to “commemorate” my trip, I got a tattoo of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge and creativity.


The tattoo is based on Balinese depictions of Sarawati, and I see it as a sort of offering.  My time in Indonesia was remarkably successful and productive, and I see the tattoo as an offering, to keep the momentum and energy of my creative in intellectual life alive – both Indonesia and at home.


Posted in Art, books, James Joyce, Photography, poetry with tags , , , on August 5, 2014 by briancarnold


I’ve been trying to put my life in perspective recently; it is a time of big change, and thus self-reflection.

photo 1

I was in high school when I first started to think of myself as an artist.  I grew up in Denver, and the city was quite strange and violent in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  There was lots of gang violence, and I got involved in a very dark, underground, industrial art movement.  Even back then, I started to embrace this idea of artist as outlaw (as Sylvia Plath once wrote, The gifted are misfits).


When I went to college, I got really interested in the early 20th century avant guarde, everything from Joyce to Dada to the writers on the Left Bank.

photo 4 (1)

I liked Gertrude Stein, and the voice she gives to the sexual or gender outlaw:

Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.
Susie Asado.
Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.
Susie Asado.
A lean on the shoe this means slips slips her.
When the ancient light grey is clean it is yellow, it is a silver seller.
This is a please this is a please there are saids to jelly.  These are the wets these
say the sets to leave a crown to Incy.
Incy is short for incubus.
A pot.  A pot is a beginning to a rare bit of trees.  Trees tremble, the old vats are in
bobbles, bobbles which shave and shove and render clean, render clean must.
Drink pups.
Drink pups drink pups lease a sash hold, see it shine and a bobolink has pins.  It shows
a nail.
What is a nail.  A nail is a unison.
Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.

photo 4

I ended up going to Bali, Indonesia the first time because I wanted to find new models for the arts, and was fascinated by the acknowledgement and blending of both light and dark forces.

photo 3

In some ways, I think I still consider myself an outlaw.  I still like what Hugo Ball wrote so many years ago, Introduce symmetries and rhythms instead of principals.  Contradict the existing world orders.

Back Again

Posted in Art, Java, Photography with tags , on August 4, 2014 by briancarnold

I’ve done a poor job as of late keeping abreast of my own photo production, or at least keeping a stream of it coming online.


I spent three months this spring in Indonesia – mostly Java – pursuing a few different projects.  I am finally getting some of my own pictures down on paper.

#3Brian_Arnold_Flying Kites

So far I am pleased with the results.


An old Mercedes covered in volcanic ash, from that eruption in East Java back in February or August.


I still work in a traditional black and white darkroom, and how I print my photographs is a large part of my vision.  Thus, I have to scan prints, and so you see those little hairs and thing I haven’t yet spotted out (these prints are just newly completed.


Burning trash in Yogyakarta, one of my favorite Indonesian cities.


An abandoned guitar along the streets of Bandung.  And hopefully more to come soon.

The Waters of Our Time

Posted in Art, literature, Photography with tags , , on June 25, 2014 by briancarnold


I’ve always thought there was a certain amount of good and bad in the world that never changes.  Whenever something bad happened to me, I told myself that there must be some good balancing it out someplace else.  Whether there’s more good than bad, or the other way around, I could never be sure, and I’m still not.  But that’s not the point.  We all have to pay a price for being here.


Since we can’t feel things fully as they are happening, all we can do is let time pass and try to retrace them.  I guess that is just life – maybe we aren’t suppose to know what it is or why it is while we are in the midst of it.


I started my morning today reading The Waters of our Time, a collaborative book made by Thomas and Giancarlo Roma – a little gem about life, love, memory, and living in Brooklyn (a wonderful flavor of Brooklyn throughout the book).


I’ve never spent too much time with Roma’s work, but the use of both a textual and photographic narratives in this book are delightful and evocative.  A redirect for the day, going to back to my project about my life in Denver, and do the best I can I can to coax out some more ideas in the writing.


I just want something to remind me of this place, so that I know that it was real – that it was mine.

Ask Me

Posted in Art, literature, Photography, poetry with tags , on June 23, 2014 by briancarnold


I can’t tell a lie.  I am a total bibliophile.


I was an English major and now a photographer, I worked in a bookstore for years, and I’ve always had a collectors mentality.  The last time I moved, I packed about 60 boxes of books.


A personal favorite, really of any genre – fiction, poetry, history, art, photography, biography – is Listening to the River by Robert Adams.  Photographed around Colorado over the course of 7 years, the book is a series of incredible panoramas, but reads more as the most heartfelt, free-verse poetry.  And then the pictures are accompanied by poems written by William Stafford.


This book was my first introduction to William Stafford too, a poet I’ve come to love.  There is one poem in the book in particular which is really one of my favorite pieces of writing.



Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made.  Ask me whether
what I have done is my life.  Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt:  ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait.  We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.


I’ve come to this poem time and again, especially at times of transition or upheaval.  I read it at my father’s funeral.


So simple and so beautiful, and such a lovely metaphor of movement and stillness, and life constantly in flux.

Dusk in Yogyakarta

Posted in Art, Java, Photography with tags , , , , on March 18, 2014 by briancarnold


Minggarin, a small park in the south side of Yogyakarta at dusk.  Young lovers sit on stone benches circling the park, sharing quiet moments together.  There is a small playground, where there are some parents and their children – playing basketball, riding seesaws.

Screen shot 2014-03-18 at 12.37.11 AM

There is a group of older men sitting together, about 8 of them, huddled close under a large banyan tree, huddled intently over a chess board.  They sit together on the ground, each one as attentive to the game as the two playing.

There is another group of about 10 younger men, perhaps in their early to mid twenties, and each of them with very dark skin.  I assumed they must be from the eastern parts of Indonesia – perhaps Papua or the eastern parts of Nusa Tenggara.


Together, these younger men played football, practicing their corner kicks.  Their ball was full of air, but was also flat and lifeless.  The field was mostly loose, dry dirt, and where there was grass, it grew in tough bunches, each several inches tall.

Left just outside the park, there was an abandoned Honda.  The windows were all broken out, the seats rotting, and the front end looked like it had a survived a fire.

Screen shot 2014-03-18 at 12.37.38 AM

There was a soft, diffused light over the park, over the whole city of Yoyga.  The air was still and quiet.  Everyone seemed content in the park, quietly taking in their shared experience.


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