Photography Degree Zero:
Polaroid 20 X 24 Pulls & Rollbacks
1996 – 2011
Polaroid 20 X 24 Site-Specific Installations
Questions frequently asked about my work include, ”How is this picture made?” followed by “What is this a picture of?” The first question addresses photography as process. The photographic object often involves an intersection of process and invention, as does the practice of photography itself. In traditional photography, both the process and the invention are “transparent”, mere means to an end. In my work the process becomes the subject. The second question addresses the conundrum of a photographic image without a picture or a “sign” to read. These two questions challenge our cultural and historically prescribed expectations for this medium to narrate and document, all the while revealing no trace of its own origins.
Both my photographic practice and umbrella concept fit under Photography Degree Zero, my phrase that originated in 1996 from my first Pull; I am its senior user and it doubles for all my one-person exhibitions since that year. It references Roland Barthes’s book, Writing Degree Zero (1953), which offers a critical discourse on the departure from a descriptive narrative in French avant-garde literature. In related fashion, my work represents a departure from the picture/sign idea in photography found in images such as landscapes, portraits or still life. Instead, my work consists of a photographic image made without a subject, or any reference to a place, a person or an object. These are artworks I make in a studio, with a camera, but without a darkroom. It involves the large-format Polaroid 20 X 24 camera that I began using in 1983. Familiar with the inner intricacies of this camera, I discovered new photographic possibilities in 1996. I named the new artworks Pulls, and later Rollbacks — here a Pull is rolled up, re-fed back through the camera for one or more exposures — to reflect the physical picture-making activity. In addition to my technique, a visual form called the parabola is introduced as a conical loop, or a hyperbola, new to the medium — shapes seen in nature in the frontal curve of a comet or the dip in a pinecone. (more)