Thing Centered Photographs

Thing Centered Photographs
1980’s / 2003 - present

I have a strong feeling or intuition that objects (stones, hammers, electric cords, garages . . . everything, really), though they are inanimate, silent, and supposedly insentient, are nonetheless very much alive and share in a Consciousness directly related to ours.  I can often feel Things trying to make contact with me, as if they have something important they need to "say" to me.  

Also, I sense that some things seem sad . . . and I can’t help but wonder if it's in part because I'm not listening, not paying enough attention to what certain things are trying to say to me. 

A successful Thing photograph, then, represents a kind of  “listening.”  In fact Thing images function as a means for us to “hear” or to know (in some subtle way) what a thing wants to tell me.  And, as strange as it may seem, I believe a good Thing photograph has the ability to give voice to that which a thing is trying to communicate.  

My photographs are, in a way, honoring Things and their “silent world” in the way that they place a Thing at the very center of my attention, that is to say, literally in the center of the frame, in the heart of the black space, which for me is a metaphor for silence.  

This project is an online digital "incarnation" of the Thing project that I began back in the early 1980's.   There have been many stages in the project's evolution that has unfolded and continues to be part of my vision to the very present moment.  In the early Studies photographs, for example, the Thing-centered images were an important and sustained aspect of that large body of work.

Studies Photograph, 1994-20000

The Black Space Thing Photogaphs
The later Thing photographs, those in particular which include black space around the object, must adhere to one important rule:  the black space must be able to find a way to flow into and merge with some black space within the contours of the object that was photographed.  In some photographs only a small opening in the frame's edge may have been enough to make it qualify for this project; in other cases an entire edge or even all four edges of the frame has been dissolved, leaving the object suspended, alone, in an infinite space of black, of silence.  (Later, below, I will present a short "history" of the Thing photograph as it has unfolded in my work over the years.)

      Thing Centered Photograph, Basketball hoop   18x18"inkjet print

       Thing Centered Photograph, Storm Cloud  18x18"inkjet print

The Thing Centered Photographs project was initiated by my discovery of the “thing poems” or “object poems” of Rilke, Francis Ponge, Robert Bly and other poets which Robert Bly introduced in his wonderful book News of the Universe, an anthology of poems that celebrates the evolution of consciousness as reflected in the history of poetry.  Visit Poetry: News of the Universe.  Following is one of the poems that has influenced this project.  

Go inside a stone.
That would be my way.
Let somebody else become a dove
Or gnash with a tiger’s tooth.
I am happy to be a stone.
From the outside the stone is a riddle:
No one knows how to answer it.
Yet within, it must be cool and quiet
Even though a cow steps on it full weight,
Even though a child throws it in a river;
The stone sinks, slow, unperturbed
To the river bottom
Where the fishes come to knock on it
And listen.
I have seen sparks fly out
When two stones are rubbed,
So perhaps it is not dark inside after all;
Perhaps there is a moon shining
From somewhere, as though behind a hill--
Just enough light to make out
The strange writings, the star-charts
On the inner walls.

     Charles Simic


       Thing Centered Photograph, Condensation on window, cup  18x18"inkjet print

        Thing Centered Photograph, Roll of toilet paper  18x18"inkjet print

       Thing Centered Photograph, Electric Cord  18x18"inkjet print

       Thing Centered Photograph, Man climbing ladder  18x18"inkjet print

        Thing Centered Photograph, Fish  18x18"inkjet print

       Thing Centered Photograph, Peach on line  18x18"inkjet print

       Thing Centered Photograph, Sunflower  18x18"inkjet print

       Thing Centered Photograph, Sculpture of man's head    18x18"inkjet print

       Thing Centered Photograph, Fulcrum with lines   18x18"inkjet print  

      Thing Centered Photograph, Fishing pole  18x18"inkjet print

      Thing Centered Photograph, Boy with bat and ball  18x18"inkjet print                               

      Thing Centered Photograph, The stairs  18x18"inkjet print

       Thing Centered Photograph, Footprint in coal dust 18x18"inkjet print


Thing Centered Photograph,  Garage Series (digital version)  Garage Facade in Shadow 18x18"

History of the Thing Photograph  
I consciously made my first Thing photographs in the early 1980's, shortly after  discovering Robert Bly's book News of the Universe.  In the period 1985-88 I made a series of 35mm formatted photographs for the  Family Life project which contain some of the first Thing photographs..

Then in 1992-93 I produced a body of square-formatted photographs entitled Thing-centered photographs with the 2 ¼ reflex camera on a tripod.  The bigger, square negative allowed a larger, sharper print with finer print tonalities.  The square format perfectly lent itself toward the centering of the objects in the picture's frame. 

Then, as I have already stated above, in 1994 - through 2000 I made miniature, square "thing" photographs for the first Studies project.  This work included "thing" images from earlier photography projects which I translated into the miniature square  3.5" x 3.5" format.  
In the year 1999-2000 I started making miniature Studies photographs of garage facades and I suspended them in black space.  This work then became the focus of an entire series of photographs entitled the Garage Series.   After I was nearly finished with the project I realized that the use of the black space--and the garage motif suspended within it--was influenced by the music of Morton Feldman.  The Garage Series thus became the first of three projects dedicated to Morton Feldman and his music. 

Later, in 2013 two new Studies projects, Studies III (my first Studies project in Color) and Studies IV (a project entitled Still Life, inspired by the great Italian painter, Morandihave extended the breadth of the Studies series.  Both include many thing centered photographs.  And since then there have been several more recent Studies projects that have continued to include Thing-Centered photographs within them.

When I transitioned into digital printing in 2003 I began making 18x18 digital print versions of the earlier thing centered and garage photographs, suspended in black space, and I went on to continue making new thing photographs as well.  I used many of these digitized thing images as "building blocks" with which I constructed the Repetition Triads, Visual Poems and other thematic subgroups for the Triadic Memories project.  

The Thing Centered Photographs are very dear to me, very close to my heart.  As I have tried to explain, it has undergone many incarnations within the history of my work and it’s a project that will continue indefinitely.  Bly's essays in his book News of the Universe, and especially his essay on the Thing or Object Poem has been a major source of inspiration for me.  I encourage you to read that book.  Visit Poetry-News of the Unvierse.

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.