I want to wrap up the images I’ve been putting together since the 2015 Winter semester at Eastern Michigan University and summarize how things are going. It’s important for me to explain where each image and their respective series fits into the bigger picture for my upcoming thesis show, coming up soon this December.
It’s been difficult for me to narrow things down and focus on what it is exactly I’m trying to accomplish. I think of photography as a tool for both personal expression and monetary gain through artistic discipline and professional services. Bridging these two and finding the connections between them is something I haven’t stopped thinking about since I first got into successful photographers such as Jerry Uelsmann, Greggory Crewdson, and David LaChappel who seem to bridge this distance quite well. I’ve posted about their work before in some of my earlier posts, but suffice it to say they’ve each had a pivotal role in my style and conceptual thought process.
In terms of Philosophical content, the work I’m creating is aimed to introduce the mind of the viewer to a hypothesis of living wholly beyond the pale of materialistic theology, philosophy, or science. I’ve been working with the following professors during during this last year of this prject: Chris Hyndman, Chris Reilly, Christine Ridgway, Morgan Barrie, Dr. Brendan Fey, and Amy Sacksteader. Each of these people have helped steer me in the right direction in their own way. The last 20 posts have been used as thought exercises to get closer to something more concrete, which is indeed final artworks hung on a wall and displayed as video.
This illustration probably summarizes best how one focal point (the dot) can go in so many different directions. Moving from left to right, this illustration defines our very nature of defining the absolute. In essence, the more we try and nail down a specific definition the muddier and more complicated things become.
I used the three basic symbols of the dot, the line, and the circle to represent ideas, actions, and generations. I found this concept of the dot, believe it or not, to be rather fascinating. Besides basic ideas, I thought of the dot being synonymous with opinions, identities, and paradigms. If this is the case then the dot is something we cannot navigate our lives without. Many of the Greco-Roman Mystery religions, which flourished from antiquity into the 1st century before being absorbed by “modern” day religions like Judaism and Christianity, understood this and took the concepts of initiation quite seriously… only disclosing the qualities (i.e. the dot) of their philosophies to those candidates who were of sound mind to understand, lest the information become perverted and misused. Upon my readings related to this field I began to understand in a very loose way just how many of those minds who were initiated into these mysteries, such as Pythagoras, Buddha, Plato, Plotonis, Aristotle, and Alexander the Great, and perhaps even Jesus Christ have influenced our modern day civilized thought process we take for granted and have since convoluted.
Bringing this “dot” to life happened when I photographed a luminescent hockey ball halfway submerged in water. As I explained in Journal No.4, “The glowing ball represents the philosophical notion of moving away from self or towards the Absolute (above). For me, this series loosely represents perhaps a soul, trapped in between our world and the realty of what’s beyond this.
I’m interested in this subject of root causes and the symbolism that’s been absorbed into western ideology because of them. For me, personally, that would be the concept of heaven and hell. It never made sense to me that a all-powerful god with unconditional love for his people would set up conditions for those who can enter his kingdom. The argument for morality aside, this kind of fear-based sermonizing does more damage than good, and has certainly has kept me up at night.
To keep things simple I started with the concept of duality. From the metaphysical viewpoint, duality refers to the physical separateness of related yet opposite phenomena or modes of being. Our entire world exists in these polarities and the concept of duality seemed a good place to start. In this ongoing image series I equivocated deep space and deep sea to represent heaven and hell, lightness and darkness, etc; a concept we’re all too familiar with. This was the first project of mine relating to this symbolism and is something I’ll continue to build onto with more images of fish and space needed to move forward. By bringing two oppositional views in the same field of vision I’m demonstrating the interplay between the two.
The Trinity Concept (Part 1)
In the middle of duality it seems the past and future exist on either side with ourselves and the material bodies we inhabit trapped, in time, between the two. I explained my reasons for illustrating the trinity in more detail in my post about the flame and Convergence from Multiple Threads. In short, this concept seems to be one of the most fundamental aspects of all philosophy and I found it mentioned all over the place from practically every religio-philosophical belief structure.
As I’ve been slowly uncovering, all worship began with sun worship, and it makes sense that the idea of fire worship, or pyrolatry, would be a fundamental aspect to focus on. Pyrolatry has been been an important part of human culture since the Lower Paleolithic periods, or about 1500 BC. Fire worship is most often associated with the one of the worlds oldest religions—Zoroastrianism—because it may just be the most connected world religions responsible for “messianism, heaven and hell, and free will [that] influenced other religious systems, including Second Temple Judaism, Gnosticism, Christianity, and Islam.” —Hinnel, J (1997), The Penguin Dictionary of Religion, Penguin Books UK
As Journal No.7 explains in more detail about the Egyptian connection to pyrolatry, there is an esoteric significance to the flames colors that draws us back to the trinity. “In simplest terms, blue signifies life and re-birth, gold represents everlasting life, and red signifies death and destruction. In the sense of the trinity…we have the dot representing blue, the line as gold, and the circle as red. Life, light, and heat.”
Fire is aesthetically beautiful AND destructive. I can see why so many of us find fire mesmerizing. I do, and that’s why I went further and created what’s a work in progress of this ancient sun worship and the ascension of the burning bridge of consciousness. This video was a 3rd revision of something I’m still working on…
(watch from beginning to 1 minute and 45 seconds)
“Below I took this concept further and introduced the aspect of the line, or bridge between life and heat that has been portrayed over and over again with the figure of Christ in the most particular sense. What I’m communicating in these images and video is that this is all a metaphor —a metaphor that the Gnostics and Mystics were very much aware of. The ladder is symbolic of esoteric knowledge; rising above the material world and transcending into the absolute.” (Journal No.7)
Below is a selected image from my series I’m calling The Flames in detail.
The Trinity Concept (Part 2)
My intention with the images below was to loosely translate trinity hierarchy (again—like the principle of dualism) with the diagram found on page 48 of Manly P. Hall’s Lectures in Ancient Philosophy.
“For this work I’m loosely translating trinity to tie more into the material and spiritual connotation of SPACE, with the addition of our reality caught in between these two worlds. The deep material circular abyss is circular and represents death and rebirth; Earth is shown in two parts (because it’s intertwined) as the trees and the temple. The trees are in the season of Fall because…the fall of man, the cycle of life, etc, and the temple is shown because it’s (a) manmade, (b) reaching towards our spiritual nature, and (c) constantly being reworked. The sky is symbolic of the spiritual world.” (Journal No.5)
You can view three more images I’ve created besides these in my series Hierarchies of Thought, which repeats this same pattern of three-tiered hierarchies.
The Microcosm and Macrocosm (Part 1)
After I referenced duality through the submerged dot and the principles of the trinity through fire and hierarchy within an image I began investigating the microcosm and macrocosm. This was more fully covered in my Macrocosm and microcosm post but to keep it simple and light I have to say that I really loved using specialized lenses to show detail otherwise overlooked. I purchased a couple of these lenses mentioned in this post for the ability to specifically see things in a new way, with more focus.
Here are my two most successful images and their video counterparts. The red rose below is a still image composited of 10 images (focus stacked) and the latter is a video of geo crystals (also made from several photographs put together). The finals of these each have their own counterparts of video movements and still images because the transition of focus is important to me, as is seeing it all at once.
In a way I’m trying to express through visual language the saying “The closer one looks at a something, the more everything else falls out of focus.” There is no specific series for these macrocosmic/microcosmic images just yet, as I’m looking forward to using this technique on more vegetation now that the weather is turning around this Spring.
The concept of macrocosm/microcosm itself is extremely important in philosophy, as I mention in more detail in my Convergence from Multiple Threads post.
This Hermetic phrase “As above, so below” comes from the beginning of The Emerald Tablet and embraces the entire system of traditional and modern magic which was inscribed upon the tablet in cryptic wording by Hermes Trismegistus. The significance of this phrase is that it is believed to hold the key to all mysteries. All systems of magic are claimed to function by this formula. “‘That which is above is the same as that which is below’…Macrocosmos is the same as Microcosmos.
This idea, then, has also transplanted itself into other experimentation I’ve been playing with, namely ways to see things from close and far simultaneously, as best illustrated from my Little Planets series below which are studio-lit macro shots of marbles. *Note, just like the previous rose and geo crystals, these images have their counterpart video versions which rotate. This project is coming to a close soon. Some of the footage can be seen in video materials I’m preparing at the moment.
The Microcosm and Macrocosm (Part 2)
Just as my previously shown image series of Little Planets suggest a close/distant relationship to the real/unreal or (in the case of natural flowers) a sense of other-worldliness or pattern taking place, I thought of another way to encompass two things at once. The following images were first introduced in my post Planes of Existence and piece together the same concept.
This series is more appropriately called Enclosed Spaces Exposed… and is viewable in a series of 10 images with two sub-divisions. One part of this series is natural landscape/architecture and the other aspect is patterns found in landscape/architecture. These two examples can be seen below.
The Microcosm and Macrocosm (Part 3)
As a brief conclusion to this concept I want to include two examples of an images I’m happy to have created by accident one afternoon…evening… I really can’t remember. The principle is the same, but with the concept of both the duality and the microcosm/macrocosm at play. This will be a series that will continue to evolve, if only for the satisfaction in finding beauty turning the world upside-down. You can view four more similar images in my series A Variety of Figments.
Symbolism as THE goal for my work is meaningless, as each viewer will automatically identify whatever symbol he/she wants to anyways. This took me awhile to figure out. As I’m hoping to get across with this lengthy post, it’s the principles of philosophy particularly expressed through the fields of photography & video aesthetics (of beauty) I want to hone in on in particular.
That being said, my original insight into discovering roots and the symbols embellished within mystery religions is still something I find fascinating. Starting with ancient illustrating relating to the cosmos of the universe I began to re-illustrate these drawings using photographic elements from image I’ve taken over the last several years and Photoshop filters, blending effects, etc. These were first introduced in Journal No.12 and are now being introduced with other in progress to my series Ancient Illustrations Revised.
To demonstrate more or less symbolism in my works I’ve also begin to incorporate overlays and direct symbolic references. For now, you can see two images in addition to the two shown below in my series, Symbolic Overlay (working title). *As a side note, I’ve been thinking about the inclusion of corporate logos within this style… to appeal and document some of the aspects corporations have taken upon themselves to practice.
From A Collection of Images Representing Higher Meaning — “This image illustrates reflections as well as cycles, as shown by the seasonal change and eclipse. For this picture I used three separate images, a graphic overlay, and digital painting techniques. This is probably one of my favorite works I’ve completed so far because it seems to incorporate multiple threads of convergence towards some of the points illustrated in this post.”
From my last post, Cultivation of Relapse and Unknowns — “The following image is similar but uses an actual light source to house the symbol of the cross, which is probably about the most universal symbol anyone can find to mean just about anything relating to the constellations, seasons, the four directions, and of course religious symbolism. I titled this photography “Cross in the Circle of the Absolute” because there is no definite definition of this symbol, as it’s used for many many things with no clear group inventing it. That being said, I decided to reference it in a way that looked holy or at least more important than it really is.”
I hope in reading this your understanding for my work these last 20 posts will make more sense going forward.