What Do I Want John Henry,  Alexander Gardner, 1862

Three Confederate soldiers huddled around a fire, author unknown



The Campfire Series has evolved from a study of two photographs of the American Civil War.  The first by Alexander Gardner, What Do I Want John Henry, 1862; the second of three confederate soldiers huddled around a fire, author unknown. Using a solitary photograph as my source of inspiration, I repeatedly studied a static moment within the Civil War.  In both of these images the crisis of the war is documented with a photo journalistic approach.   Both inform and press upon the viewer the suffering and dehumanization of war, the ravaging consequences of racism as institution and yet they also entomb the image as something distant, foreign and otherworldly.   The encapsulated content struggles to be digested,in some ways read more like a myth than fact.   I created a parameter of working with one image at a time over a series of months.  Repeating the act of compositional studies allowed for subtle shifts of emotional response and a variety of emphasis on various aspects of the image.  I wanted to build a relationship with the content,  stay with it and allow the imagery to penetrate my gaze as much as I gazed at the photograph.  Spending so much time with these images brought me visually into these camps, reading the bodies of perpetrator and victim, allowing paint to "talk" with the image from a shifted sense of presence.  I feel no more comfortable with the images than before.  I have no more answers or insight then my first glance, but I have a respectful intimacy that has grown with time spent with this content. The best I can say is that I feel the images with greater depth.