These pictures started with one of those ridiculously obvious artistic questions arising from my earlier work. What would happen if I extended the horizon line, and kept extending it? How long could I make it? Could a horizon line be more that 360%? And what would that look like.
This led me to the computer and cloning, and the idea of cloning. It turned out that I had been photographing landscapes that were all ready “cloned”. Vineyards and highways are uniform — made one section at a time, each one just like the one before. So then digitally cloning one small part and connecting them together is a parallel process.
I extend the subject, filling the larger picture in with information that comes from the smaller frame of a camera. Then I erase the symmetries that pop out, the features of the image that most obviously repeat until the image seems more ‘natural’ or just natural enough to not seem synthetic. Getting rid of the apparent repetitive elements just makes less obvious repetitive elements of the pictures more apparent. This can be an endless process ending ironically with everything being the same but I don’t take it that far. In the computer, making things just a little different from each other ends up being like erosion or whatever else makes two genetically identical trees different.
My pictures are not constructed fantasies. The are actual in the way photographs are, and perhaps more real. Growing a part of picture in the computer is like is culturing a virus. In either the computer or a petrie dish, something reproduces itself until it reaches a critical mass where it can be seen with greater clarity.
Parallel processing between the computer and nature is a big idea. Exactly what do computers do? They copy. Just what does DNA do? Copies it’s self. Copying is what makes the world go round. It is the way we reproduce, make the world, and create information.
Cloning and erasing also raises the fundamental question about when is something the same or different. When the exact same tree repeats itself several times in a photograph, what small change makes one tree ‘different’ that the other — one branch or two? This little exercise goes right to the basis of knowledge. Knowing that some thing is the same or different than another is the nodes to which our conceptual systems and languages lock on to the world.
So what are these landscapes, natural or synthetic? What is artificial, contrived by art rather than nature? What is real? I think these are the wrong questions. Since Darwin, there has been no place to draw the line between the ‘nature’ and what human beings do in the world. Our cities are no less natural than a beehive. But intuitively we feel the difference between the patterns of what we make and the rest of nature. I think my pictures sit right on the edge of that difference.
Finally, these pictures are also about repetition. Repetition is fun, and pleasurable. Repetition of sounds can become music. Simple repetitive sequences of numbers are signs of intelligent life.
–Tom Bamberger, 4/24/2002
Tom Bamberger is a photographer who has spent most of his life in his native Milwaukee and is currently exploring landscape photography as a “meditation on truth”. Here he presents recent work that uses digital techniques to form repetitive elements from “real” landscape photographs. He starts with an artistic questioning of the boundaries of the horizon line – can it exceed beyond 360 degrees? Using the computer to clone and erase sections of his landscape photographs, Bamberger extends the information that comes from the smaller frame of a camera in an almost biologic process akin to reproductive copying of DNA. “Processing and choosing elements that seem more ‘natural’ or just natural enough to not seem synthetic,” his pieces California Homes and Spring Trees, sit on the edge of the difference between what one feels intuitively as the patterns of the synthetic with those of the landscape of nature, finding solace in repetition and opening us to see profound clarity within the quotidian.
Tom Bamberger’s work, represented by Leslie Tonkonow Artworks and Projects in NYC, has been shown at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Robert Mann Gallery in NYC, and the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Tom has been published in leading magazines including Aperture, Blind Spot, and the New York Times.