Unlike the methodology of painting, until recently photography has been predominantly a tool of circumscription and excision. From my earliest years photographing on the prairie, I found this deeply frustrating. The world I inhabited was always so much larger, so much more complex and interesting than any pictures I could make of it. A photograph of the world is no more the world than a drawing is a smoker’s pipe. Yet, the world, when forced by a photograph to masquerade as a picture, becomes and can only be, a ‘picture’.
In 1978 I obtained a camera that on a single roll of film made just four images, each of which encompassed a full quarter of the perceptual circumference. Rotating horizontally at right angles between exposures thus recorded everything from my centre to the encircling horizon; one roll of film, one image, everything; an altogether irresistible combination of neatness and elegance. And even though no more capable of addressing the fundamental dichotomy between actuality and image than any other picturing methodology, somehow acknowledging that dichotomy, inherently implied as it was within the form, seemed at least to blur the edges a little.*
I have worked in this way on several different projects over the past 25 years, producing re-presentations of a variety of sites in North America and Europe. One of these I call Continental Edge, a body of work made along the western edge of Europe from Orkney to the Franco-Spanish border.
Over the course of six months I made over 300, 360° images, each simultaneously looking out toward the west and back into the continent. I have long felt that there is a tendency for the eccentricities – for me, the most interesting elements of a culture – to distill out along their western boundaries; the result, I believe, of a restlessness of imagination that is always questing for a horizon, always following the sun, at least until it bumps up against a seemingly un-crossable barrier.
As someone once said of California, it’s the way it is because that’s where America was forced to look back on itself and see what it had done.
As with almost all my projects, this one is ongoing.
NOTE: It is in the nature of these works that images can be presented in any of four, equally coherent ways simply by re-ordering the four print components (see image “Biarritz, France” following). When exhibiting, it is also possible to extend images through corners.