Behind the Photos
THE BOUND is about a subculture of people who allow themselves to be mummified or intricately bound in rope. Rather than approach my subject as a fetish, I've explored the complexities of using the body as a site of experimentation, meditation, and transformation.
A friend told me about mummification, a practice among a small group of people that involves someone being wrapped in bandages or plastic material until they are immobile. It requires a skilled practitioner who has won such a high degree of trust from a partner that he or she will submit to the experience of being rendered physically powerless and emotionally isolated. That relationship, between a creator who needs the compliance of her subject, and a subject willing to put herself completely in the hands of that creator, seems to me the quintessence of an artistic bond. The layers go deep, involving trust, safety, vulnerability, dependence, creative and emotional need, and the very nature of intimacy.
THE BOUND series was possibly the most emotionally difficult I have undertaken. The nature of the practice, involving a very personal and intense union of trust and dependence between practitioners and their subjects, allowed no way in for someone on the outside. Although I often prefer to work as an outsider, I was more aware than usual of not being part of the group, even as the beauty of the figures, and the emotional bravery of the subjects drew me in. I confess that I did not fully understand the motives or the desires leading people to mummification. I have wondered if going so deeply inside oneself after giving up all control and responsibility for one’s own well-being, mirrors the experience of being in the womb.
To make Five Men, with five male subjects each wrapped in black against a black background, I experimented using headless tailors dummies covered in matte black cloth. I knew I had to to perfect my lighting and organize my set before my shoot because once the subjects were wrapped they could not move or endure being frozen in position for more than a few minutes. Wrapping was performed in stages so the subjects could be placed into position while they could still walk. Several practitioners wrapped the figures; with assistants making sure the subjects did not fall or dehydrate. There was a lot of pressure as I had barely five minutes to expose film before the first of the five men started to flag.
The photographs were taken with an 8 x 10 Deardorff view camera using Kodak Tri-X film and strobe lighting. The final prints are 60 inches x 47.25 inches (152 x 120 cm) gelatin silver on Ilford Matte Warm paper, in an edition of six each.
THE BOUND has also been issued as a limited edition portfolio of hand-pulled, copper plate of photogravures. Photogravures are photographic images etched into copper and printed traditionally with ink. They produce rich, velvet blacks, subtle grays, and luminous highlights with a matte surface that creates sensuous, emotional prints. Originally a 19th century invention and difficult to produce and execute, I was drawn to the ink on paper process for its lush tones that combine with the graphic qualities of modernism. While the large scale gelatin silver murals of THE BOUND show the grandeur and sculptural quality of the images, the photogravure process allowed me to capture on a more intimate scale the tactile beauty that I saw in front of my camera.
Photogravures are usually made in black and white but two of my images are in color. To create the color images, oil based pigment was applied to the paper before it was printed.
LIMITED EDITION THE BOUND
Sixteen hand-pulled copper plate photogravures, edition of 10 signed by the artist
Image size 16 x 19.25 inches (40.5 x 49cm); Paper size 17 3/8 inches (45.4 x 49 cm)
Design by The Grenfell Press; Binding by Mark Tomlinson; Printing by Lothar Osterburg
Published by Sei Swann, New York 2016