Photography & Human Dissection

Me. Printed in Photo Life, September 1981
(photo by my Dad)

The more I look, the more insatiable my appetite becomes. I can easily lose track of time with my hands on or in a body. It’s so similar to being in a darkroom that in some ways I have been doing it forever.

In the darkroom, creative use of light is used to expose, manipulate, combine and edit the mood of an image. The negative is an objective template and the light that passes through it is subjective. It is the light that reveals the image, and the light that also has the capacity to hide or reveal finer detail. What I appreciate most about being in a darkroom is perhaps the illusion that I have some control over the image I wish to expose. Either it exists or it doesn’t, and I have been known to spend HOURS attempting to reconcile the image in my head with that on the page. I emerge from a darkroom marathon exhausted and exhilarated. Inspired and planning the next roll.

When I was young, my Dad, who was an X-ray technician by profession, had a passionate hobby in photography. He shot black and white film that he processed in a darkroom he built in our basement. Myself and my brothers were often his subjects, but I took a deeper interest, wanting to spend time with him in the cramped darkroom. I remember sitting on the couch with him, eyes closed, attempting to thread an old film onto a developing spool.
I would eventually inherit his cameras, darkroom equipment and passion for images. The combined work and luck it takes to bring an image from conception to print is simultaneously fraught with excitement and frustration. The entire process is not unlike being in the lab.

I love all photographs. I am interested in what the person holding the camera wants to reveal. I want to know the stories behind the light, the angle and composition. I love how photographs document the passage of time, and the mysteries they hold. I believe that a body also holds the documentation and mystery of time.

The dissection lab is not unlike the darkroom for me. I was good with a scalpel from day one. The precision required to uncover structure satisfied the photographer in me. To me, a scalpel is akin to the light in the darkroom. It’s the tool used to expose and bring to the surface, what lies beneath.