Customarily the backdrop is used as a tool to isolate the subject in a controlled studio environment in order to direct the viewer’s attention. In the case of Ring Them Bells the backdrop is a subject in and of itself. By exposing the framework that supports the backdrop, the absorbent black void becomes a vulnerable apparatus against the wilds of New Zealand. The exposed solid black background’s limitations creates a middle ground. It is this element that defines the reality between 2 extremes; The exposed vulnerable body and the immense unforgiving natural world.
The black backdrop, the white backdrop and the grey backdrop are the foundations of studio photography. Each of these tones contribute their own individual emotional currency for the final image. Black is absorbent, cold, void, powerful, consuming, intimidating and commanding with no promises or absolutions. In these self portraits the black fabric reflects upon nothing. It does not offer highlights or dimension. It does not suggest depth or form. In these images the black backdrop is a means to separate that which can not be separated or controlled. It narrows the focus to polar opposites and requires the viewer to consider grand perspective. In its void, there is space for the human brain to consider its fragile and unimportant self against a magnificent landscape only barely revealed.
The title of each self-portrait is the latitude and longitude (-42.379006, 172.331511) for the exact location in which the image was created. The science of geodesy provides the only absolution within an intimate image subject to interpretation. In this grounding factual calculation there is potential for relation between the viewer and the subject.
Ring them Bells is a reference to the song performed by Liza Minnelli & written by Fred Ebb & John Kander. While driving through the majestic fiords in my camper van dubbed “Shirley,” this iconic song played and I heard the words for the first time. The subject, coincidentally named “Shirley,” travels the world in search of love only to find her match who lives next door on Riverside Drive. Sometimes we need to go to great lengths to find what is just on the other side of the wall. “Open up the door and hurry out in the hall.”