Towers Open Fire

Posted in Art, Photography with tags , , , , on February 27, 2015 by briancarnold

We must storm the citadels of enlightenment, the means are at hand.

William Burroughs


The dreamachine was conceived by Brion Gysin.  It’s a mechanical device designed to invoke psychedelic or trance like states of consciousness.


A dreamachine is constructed by cutting out a series of shapes into a cylinder, which is then mounted on a record player.  A light bulb is suspended inside the cylinder, and the turntable spun at 45 or 78 rpm.


The user sits next to the turntable, eyes closed, and the shapes cut into the cylinder provide a flicker effect on the back of the eyes.  The combination of movement and light triggers the imagination, with hallucinatory or trance like results on the play of consciousness.

bricks and bunny

In the 1980’s, Denver was home to large, neopagan industrial art scene, grounded in the work and ideas of William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, and Genesis P-Orridge.  I was just 18 or 19 the first time I encountered a dreamachine, at a TOPY run gallery in the warehouse district of Denver.


I was fascinated by the works of Burroughs at the time, and spent a lot of time in the warehouse gallery and music scene.

bricks and bunny #2


Architectural Grid

Posted in Art, Photography with tags , on February 26, 2015 by briancarnold

I compiled this 32×40 inch grid of architectural photographs the other day.


It’s part of my photographic memoir made in Denver, CO.


This combination of pictures is perhaps a bit more intuitive than many of the others in this series.  It’s really just architectural pieces and shapes made around Denver, though still addressing themes that repeat throughout (e.g.  Western identity and religion).


Most of the pictures have been made over the last few years, though there is one color snapshot from 1994.


It’s from the first place I lived in after college, my first house in Denver after leaving my mom’s place.

greek church

I guess you could call it a biography in architectural forms.


Greek Orthodox Church

Posted in Art, Photography with tags , , , on February 26, 2015 by briancarnold

When I was a kid in Denver, there was a huge, annual festival held at a Greek Orthodox Church in town, the Denver Greek Festival.


I was pretty young, but I still remember going to these festivals.  They were crazy, so many people drunk on Ouzo.  I also remember the gyros and baklava.


The last time I was in Denver, I went back to this church to photograph.  It was a pretty amazing day, with that uniquely rich Colorado light. late afternoon.


The church is located on the line between the Cranmer Park and Glendale neighborhoods in Denver.


I parked my car in a ratty parking lot underneath the church, and spent the next couple of hours making pictures.  It was a nice afternoon, not only for the light, but because my five year old son wanted to join me; he made pictures on iPhone while I walked around with my Bronica.

church lot1

I made all these pictures that afternoon, a series of silver prints mounted into one frame measuring about 17×68 inches.


It’s part of ongoing series of photographs I’m compiling about growing up in Denver.  I’m heading back West next week, and delight to make pictures again.

greek church mock up

Eastman House Selections

Posted in Art, Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2015 by briancarnold

So I continue to work on my forthcoming book with Oxford University Press, Alternative Processes in Photography: Technique, History, and Creative Practice (the title has changed a couple of times).


Since around September or October, I’ve repeatedly visited the George Eastman House in Rochester, pulling pictures from their archives to use as illustrations in my book.


The Eastman House is home to the world’s largest public collection of photographs, and needless to say it’s been a great experience combing through these archives in search of photographs.


Just a few days ago, I finally submitted a list of 30 pictures to the museum for reproduction rights.  It’s remarkably satisfying to see this project coming together, to see these pictures becoming something of my own.


If you scroll back, you can see a list of some of the contemporary contributors I’ve successfully recruited for inclusion in this book.  Now, to add to that list, all these great photographers pulled from the Eastman House archives – above, William Henry Fox Talbot, Anna Atkins, Abelardo Morell, and Eugene Atget.


In finding all these photographs for my text, somehow I feel they become part of my own history too.


These pictures are all apart of a biography for which I want to own, a statement about my own life.


I know that might seem silly to some, but I see so much of myself – both a literal and aspirational history – in all of these photographs.

Silver Gelatin Print, printed under supervision of Edward Weston

The historical illustrations, at least with just a few exceptions, are coming from the Eastman House.  Above, Frank Gohlke, Charles Negre, Peter Henry Emerson, and Edward Weston.  For more recent examples, I’ve been contacting friends and colleagues from over the years


On a personal or visual level, some of these pictures mean more to me than others, but all are meaningful in reflecting a history I love.


The book is due for release in February 2017, and my goal is to submit a completed draft of the manuscript by the summer.

Betty Hahn, "Morning Mum, 1979", brown print with pastels, 1979

There are moments and movements in the history of photography that mean more to me than others, and certainly photographers who mean more to me than others, and yet still there is so much that I love about all photography, from daguerreotypes to Instagram.


Part of my goal as a teacher and photographer – and as author of this book – is to keep an multiplicitious approach to photography alive and a part of the contemporary discussion.  Photography, it’s approaches and possibilities, are so much bigger than most of us know.


These pictures are all part of the request I just submitted (just pulled from google image searches), along with many others (above Alvin Langdon Coburn, Edward Steichen, Betty Hahn, Clarence White, and Edward Weston) .  And all these pictures represent something of my own journey and life as a photographer.


This last picture is from one of my first, serious bodies of work, all photographed in Commerce City, Colorado.  These train tracks run through a former military weapons arsenal, though since converted to an animal refuge and sanctuary.

Reading Room

Posted in Art, Java, Photography with tags , , , , , on February 8, 2015 by briancarnold

So, if you follow any of my other blogs, you know I am working on some projects in Indonesia.


The other day, I ventured out into the cold and spent a couple of hours in the Cornell Rare Book and Manuscript Reading Room, and looked through the archives of Claire Holt.


Claire Holt is a writer, Indonesian scholar, art historian, and woman I admire tremendously.  She wrote a fantastic and influential book on Indonesian art, Art in Indonesia:  Continuities and Change.

After a very diverse and eclectic career, Holt finished her work at Cornell, as a member of the Cornell Modern Indonesia Project.


I am working to organize an exhibition of contemporary art photography from Java, and periodically over the past few years, I’ve gone to Claire Holt’s work for both information and inspiration.


Cornell houses a lot of Holt’s research materials – notes, letters, photographs, notebooks, lectures, and other materials that all coalesced into her great book.


This exhibition I am organizing will include some of Holt’s photographs, so I went to Cornell in hopes of finding more of her pictures, more ideas for this exhibition.

photo back

I was a bit disappointed in the photographs I found.  Most of her photographs and albums are held at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center (Holt was an early advocate for the developing a dance research archive in New York, which really helped spawn this particular branch of the library system in NYC).


So I didn’t find the photographs I was looking for, but nonetheless found lots of interesting things.  Letters exchanged between friends and colleagues (my favorites were the letters exchanged with Dutch artist Rudolf Bonnet, largely about reproduction rights for paintings from his collection), reviews and acknowledgements of her book, lectures from her time in NYC and at Cornell, and notebooks and albums she kept in the field while working in Indonesia.


It’s amazing the glimpse you can get into a life with such ephemera.  I feel a connection and affinity with Claire Holt, and that is largely been from engaging these types of objects and history.


So I didn’t find the photographs I was looking for, in regards to organizing this exhibition, but I found something else, inspiration, and a great connection with the work and ideas of a woman whose life has meant a great deal to me.


As I walked home, I thought about that famous novel by A.S. Byatt, Possession.


Possession tells the story of two modern academics, and the research they conduct on the lives of poets from Victorian England.  I was struck by the idea – maybe even the reality – of relationships we can build that transcend the boundaries of time.  And even how these types of relationships can give us a better understanding of our time and relationships today.



Under the Ceiling Fan (Or Lessons About Love)

Posted in Art, Photography on February 4, 2015 by briancarnold

When I finished high school, I had a large, tight group of friends. Things changed for all of us when we left school. Some of us left for college – both in state and out – while others stayed home in Denver and looked for independence in the city. In these first days out on our own, not all of us landed on our feet.


Both Leslie and Ben stayed in Denver, and neither went to college. Within our group of friends, they both played a central roll in getting and keeping us all together. Both loved being around people, and easily embraced a party. That first year out of school, however, tore them both apart. They had a hard time growing into the next phase of life. Leslie and Ben were lovers for our last two years of high school, but had a violent break-up that first year after school.

After they broke up, a lot of dark secrets came forward. Ben slept around a lot, and some speculation he spent some time at a gay bar up the street from his apartment. He was confused, no doubt, and then he lost control of his behavior. When their relationship ended, he turned very hostile towards Leslie. He broke into her apartment, and destroyed things he gave her as gifts, and with a knife he slashed pictures of the two of them together. He stole her car, and put sugar in the gas tank. Sometimes Ben would call her phone, and just sit on the other end in silence; he wanted to know whether or not she was alone. Ben blamed Leslie for everything, all the pain he felt and the difficulties he faced in growing up. He stalked her for weeks.


Most of this happened while I was away for my freshmen year of college. When those of us who left for school returned for the summer, we all tried to pick up our friendships where we’d left the previous summer. Ben was angry, like more than just Leslie, we’d all left and betrayed him. That first year of school was really tough for me, and I was delighted to have the chance to reconnect with this group of friends that’d meant so much to me. And I spent a lot of time with Leslie.

As the summer progressed, Leslie and I really became a thing, a real relationship started. The magnetism between started right away, early in the summer. At parties, we also found ourselves together, sitting close and talking. During the day, we talked on the phone. She confided in me a lot, so much about Ben. She was still reeling from the break up, and full of complex emotions. She started to count on me in helping her process it all. It was like this for much of the summer. Come early August, we knew the connection was there, and we needed some time alone while it was still a possibility.


It was a date, our first really. We had been friends for several years, but the growing intimacy was still new. I was living with my mom that summer, but she travelled much of the summer (it was the summer my grandfather died). I thought it might be nice to have Leslie over to the house. First we went out for dinner, to a Chinese place at the south end of town. Leslie did her best to look pretty; she was always very beautiful, but the weight of all these emotions she carried did show.


She was dressed all in white – a short skirt, tights, and a summer blouse. We sat at a table for four, but sat in the booth side by side. Our legs touched under the table, and we’d both steal a little caress along a hand or thigh as the opportunity presented itself.

After dinner, we went back to my mom’s house. It was still early in the evening, and we had a drink. We sat in the guest room. The sofa bed was folded out, and it was a hot night, so the windows were all open and we turned on the ceiling fan.

all costs

We started to kiss, and it wasn’t long before we started to undress each other. I pulled down her skirt and tights, and then slipped off her white panties. Leslie responded and took off my clothes, and we made love. It was quick, nervous, and intense.


Afterwards we lay naked together under the fan, staring in silence at the ceiling and trying to understand what we just shared. I was naked, and Leslie wore just a white satin halter-top.


What are you thinking? I asked after a few minutes

 That it is easier to share your body than your soul, she responded, almost a-matter-of-factly. There was an obvious fatigue to her voice.

big o

We spent the night together, sleeping naked under the fan and the open windows. When we woke in the morning, I got up and walked naked into the kitchen. She came in behind me, already back in her skirt. I walked by the kitchen windows and she jumped in front of me, arms spread wide.

What was that?! I asked.

 I didn’t want the world to see you naked, she replied.


This story and all the photographs are part of a photographic narrative I am preparing about my life in Denver in the 1970’s-80’s.  The completed piece is composed of these 9 photographs mounted on board, about 15″x100.”  The individual photographs range in size from about 2″x3″ to 11″x14.”  Most of the photographs I made over the last few years while traveling back to Denver.  There is one color snapshot of Leslie, a picture from one of the first couple of rolls of film I ever shot.  The other two people pictured are my brother and sister-in-law, two people who’ve taught me a great deal about love.  love mock up


A Lingering Question on Morality

Posted in Art, Photography with tags on February 1, 2015 by briancarnold

I flew back to Denver for the sole purpose of making photographs.  I’d been in Denver the previous two years, and dabbled in making photographs.  This time I was really trying to start a new project, and for me a new way of photographing.  In those previous trips, I loved the feelings and memories I had photographing on the streets, but this new idea was based on those feelings, and not the pictures I had those previous trips.  I was a little nervous.

10 commandments

The original idea was to photograph along Colfax Avenue, but my ideas and inspirations have since grown.  So this afternoon in question, I took the bus from my Mom’s house in Park Hill, down Colfax to Civic Center Park.  I planned on walking back to her house and photograph, about 4-5 miles along Colfax Ave, through the heart of Denver


When I got off the bus, I walked around the park, to get acclimated and connected to my surroundings before I really started photographing.

Walking the park, I was a bit taken aback but what I saw.  It was really an open drug market.  Within minutes, I was offered a variety of things – pot, cocaine, ecstasy.  No stranger to these things, but I was really angry at how many people kept offering me drugs, and how aggressively they pursued me.


The first picture I took that day was on the steps to the Capitol Building, and it as a stone block with the 10 Commandments carved into it.  There was a squirrel dashing around the block, looking for scrapes of food.  I wanted to photograph the squirrel against the 10 Commandments.

power invasion

The aggression of the squirrel was unnerving.  I thought it was gonna take my wallet, perhaps embolden by all crime around the Capitol Building, and enacting it all itself.


Somehow it all became clear, the question or problem in front of my camera.  Drugs and social chaos on the foot of the Capitol Building; a message delivered by God about moral living; and a rodent looking to take anything I had without question or fear.  It seemed like the perfect metaphor for what I’d come to photograph.  I knew right then that I found something of the personal history I wanted to document walking the streets in Denver, one caught between conflicting expectations and reality.



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