I am five years old and wandering aimlessly around the living room with a brown piece of molded plastic in front of my eyes. I’m trying to find the “good” light, so I stagger from lamp to window and back again. It’s like watching a moth dancing around an open flame. This is what being obsessed with a View-Master does to a kid. Through its lenses, glowing three-dimensional pictures pulled me in, ignited daydreams, and kindled the fires of make-believe. Once inside, I vied for Snow White’s affection as the eighth dwarf, swam happily in shark-infested waters, and observed New York Harbor from atop the Statue of Liberty. If life truly has an influence on art, then the still-life photographs that I make are inspired by the View-Master, with its ordinary objects becoming immersed in light and filled with dimension.
Old books are the ordinary objects I use in my photographs. These beautiful volumes with scarred and wrinkled covers, discolored pages, and fragile spines are not precious commodities that should be stored on a shelf, but actors waiting for direction. Cutting pages with a knife forms characters. They are brought to life by pulling the severed parts outward—wire, tape, and other tricks help to hold their place in front of the camera. “Good” light emphasizes drama and a shallow lens focus simulates depth—mimicking the third dimension. Scenes are captured on film and the resulting photographs are picture books that tell stories without words. In “Recover,” castaways drift atop the very thing that documents their ordeal, and a boxer’s own shadow becomes his opponent in “Spar.” The book is no longer something to be looked through. It must be looked at. This is my new obsession.