Images of Eden

Images of Eden  1983-84
Silver Gelatin prints  10.5x10.5"


This project is the first part of a two part project that was influenced by and is in homage to one of my mentors, the great photographer of Paris, Eugene Atget   (1857-1927).  

When I began this work the Museum of Modern Art had begun publishing a large series of books devoted to all aspects of Atget’s work.  I especially loved his ancient park photographs and his photographs of Paris buildings and places.  I wanted to explore Atget's style of picture making and these two subjects myself in relation to the parks and the downtown places where I lived, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Part two of this pair of projects is entitled City Places.

Eden is God’s timeless creation, a divine place, heaven on earth, a timeless place of beauty, joy, love, endless creativity.  City Parks, on the other hand, are man’s humble attempt to recreate this ideal place using conventions of design that are based heavily in 19th century painting and drawing.  If you stand in just the right park place, you see a picture perfect composition in which trees, bushes, stones, ponds, streams, bridges, paths, etc. come together in a form that perhaps can invoke the picture perfect feeling or remembrance or ideal place of Eden.
Atget’s photographs were probably not so conceptual; in fact his stance or style is most often straight forward, unaffected, descriptive.  And yet there was the lens flare and the magical beauty of the subjects that made his pictures seem to me to be not simply documents.  There is something transcendent, poetic, evocative of the ineffable about Atget's best photographs.

And so I wanted to see if I could put all this together in my Images of Eden series.  I wanted to honor the Milwaukee parks as the beautiful places they were in themselves; I wanted to honor the timeless divine place that parks are symbols of; and I wanted to honor or at least explore the picturesque conventions upon which park design is based.

When I made these pictures in 1983-84 my friends thought I was being ironic.  But my experience of making the pictures was most often not consciously ironic.  When I was photographing the Parks I would be transported to other places:  to a psychological place of timeless peace and beauty; to a “place” of seeing through Atget's eyes, Atget's Paris.  

But perhaps I had been enchanted.  Perhaps behind the lovely innocence of the scene's picturesque facade, its shallow artifice, it's manufactured narcissism, there lurks a sinister reality.  The Parks hold a frail promise, and if you look closely enough the fantasy may be dispelled and you find yourself coming to the awful realization:  It is I who created the illusion.   (See the picture at the top of the page.  You can click on the image to enlarge it.)

Intentional Fallacy
I am willing to be the first to warn:  Beware! there is such a thing as intentional fallacy.   Artists can share their ideas, ideals, intentions and experiences - and that is of course interesting.  But ultimately the work’s meaning has just as much to do with the work itself, and what you as viewes bring to the work.  Don’t depend on what artists say for a definitive understanding of any art work.  It’s just one part of a complex puzzle.  

The work - that is - the creative process, has its own autonomy up to a point, it’s own agenda despite what artists say.  The viewer has his or her agenda (desires, needs, expectations), despite the work and despite what artists say about it.  It all must be considered, together, as a whole package, it seems to me.  And finally as a viewer, one stands alone before the work and comes to terms with it the best one can in any given moment.  And perhaps the work will look and mean differently tomorrow . . . next week, next year.

Related Projects
Other projects with similar themes have emerged since the making of Images of Eden in 1983-84.  Visit:   River Songs  1988-89     Color Diptychs 1990-92    Celestial Gardens  2011 

   1  Images of Eden,  Eden Island  10.5x10.5" gelatin silver print

   2  Images of Eden,  Flowering Tree  10.5x10.5" gelatin silver print

   3  Images of Eden,  Bridge to Paradise  10.5x10.5" gelatin silver print

   4  Images of Eden,  Eden River   10.5x10.5" gelatin silver print

   5  Images of Eden,  Adam and Eve  10.5x10.5" gelatin silver print

   6  Images of Eden,  Young Boy Looking Closely  10.5x10.5" gelatin silver print

   7  Images of Eden,  Cross   10.5x10.5" gelatin silver print

   8  Images of Eden,  White Tree and Moon  10.5x10.5" gelatin silver print

   9  Images of Eden,  Waterfall  10.5x10.5" gelatin silver print

   10  Images of Eden,  Eden Meadow, arching tree  10.5x10.5" gelatin silver print

   11  Images of Eden,  White Pole, Stormy sky  10.5x10.5" gelatin silver print

   12  Images of Eden,  Luminous Fog  10.5x10.5" gelatin silver print

   13  Images of Eden,  Emerging Landscape  10.5x10.5" gelatin silver print

Visit  City Places

Eden, after all, should be in color.  That should be a clue right away about the power of photographic enchantment.   To see two other projects with related thematic ideas, but in color, visit:

                         Celestial Gardens  
                         Color Diptychs
                         The Meadow  2008-ongoing

Welcome Page  to The Departing Landscape website which includes the complete hyperlinked listing of my online photography projects dating back to the 1960's, my resume, contact information, and more.