Slow Light (2012-present) is a series of photographs addressing the phenomenon of afterimages – the latent imagery that remains on our retinas after we look at the sun or at bright objects in the dark. Using handmade artificial retinas that register the remains of light, I am able to simulate an essentially unphotographable visual experience.
Afterimages have a transgressive quality that appeals to me. They appear when we use our eyes in ways that we shouldn’t – by staring at something too bright or holding our gaze for too long. When I first moved to Louisiana, I was struck by the appearance of oil refineries at night, which looked like strange forbidden cities. Soon after I started to photograph them, I was stopped by the police and told that refineries are indeed “unphotographable” according to post-9/11 regulations. This experience heightened my interest in them as photographic subjects.
Keeping a low profile, I began to systematically document refineries up and down the Mississippi River, using the afterimaging camera to render them as ghostly, mysterious constellations of light marked by unearthly color shifts. For me, these images evoke both a presence and an absence. They are points along a continuum between strict representation and subjective abstraction, or between our immediate visual reality and the decaying, remembered imagery that subconsciously shapes our perception.