To say that photographs lie implies that they might tell the truth; but the beauty of their nature is exactly to say nothing, neither to lie nor not to. -Stanley Cavell
While photographs may not lie, liars may photograph. -Lewis Hine
My work reflects the tension between a desire to believe in something concrete and larger than oneself and the skeptical rational mind. This conceptual starting point is illuminated through a longstanding personal interest in paranormal events of both a religious and secular nature as well as in the culture of storytelling and storytellers. All of my ideas manifest themselves first as a narrative story based in personal experience and become “real” through the process of creation as an image. The image makes the story concrete and solidifies it as a document of sorts, but the viewer is then left to decipher the nature of that document. Similar to the children’s game of telephone, the stories that interest me travel down a slippery path of revision through telling and re-telling.
In all of the images in the series, I appear as a sort of actor or character that is experiencing these events and then attempting to communicate them to the viewer. The character appears as a sort-of “everyman,” in non-descript apparel of a short sleeve white shirt and striped tie. The clothes function elusively, perhaps suggesting the anonymous nature of the office worker or perhaps suggesting the formal informality of the religious zealot. The true focus of the photographs is on the idea, event, or object that is being presented as “proof” of the character’s encounter to the camera.
My stories in this series are all based on actual events, but during the process of retelling, they sometimes slip closer to or further away from the actuality of the given situation. I pull the viewer in with the pretense of factual information and then challenge their notions of where that credibility is established. In doing so, I address how we frame intangible paranormal experience through both written and visual languages and how those languages function as elusive tools to communicate this experience to others. I am also interested in the visual interaction of text and image as co-dependent aspects in the documentation of the experience and curious whether one creates a greater sense of authenticity than the other. I also explore the idea of the coincidence and challenge the viewer to determine for themselves how far events can be extrapolated upon to suggest connected meanings of individual events. The photographic nature of the final pieces examines the nature of the photographic document as well as the relationship of photography to both objective and subjective truth.
Nate Larson earned his MFA in Photography at Ohio State University in 2002 and his BA with Distinction in Photography and Visual Communication Design from Purdue University in 2000. His work has been featured in solo shows at the Southern Light Gallery in Amarillo, Texas and Sean Christopher Fine Art in Columbus, Ohio. His extensive list of group shows include those at Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography in Toronto, Momus Gallery in Georgia, Ohio Cultural Arts Center in Athens, Irving Art Association in Irving, and the Free Gallery in Glasgow, Scotland. Reviews of his work have appeared in the Columbus Dispatch, Short North Gazette, and the Webster Journal. Additionally Larson has presented artist talks at Society for Photographic Education Midwest Conferences in Chicago, Grand Rapids, and Carbondale; has taught at Wright State University in Dayton, and is currently an instructor and Photography Department head at Elgin Community College in Elgin, Illinois.