It was in the Greek islands . . . when I was first compelled to photograph a doorway. In that beautiful country, of course, there is something captivating around almost every corner.
But, it was more than just the scene’s superficial beauty. Many of these doorways were open – offering a glimpse into another life, practically another world. How many doorways does one walk through a day? How many does one walk past? Today, how many of those were missed opportunities? Which ones were we wise to pass by?
Symmetry and asymmetry – both metaphorical and real. It was required that my shutter capture some. Others were of no interest at all.
Usually, the most compelling images were off the beaten path and not where they were supposed to be. Smaller cities began to offer more of these passages to appreciate and ponder on multiple levels. These images and their corresponding moments in time embody the aesthetics of wabi sabi – whereby often the neglected scenes were of far greater interest than the ornate passageways of castles, monuments, or museums.
- “121 Doorways” Exhibit Introduction
I’ve had people ask if I’m still scouting such locations and photographing them.
The Urge To Click
Honestly, sometimes I have to fight the urge to click. A trip through Asia offered a number of candidates that I had to turn down: “Nope, not working on that project anymore,” I’d tell myself.
If you missed the 2008 Atlanta exhibition, it was essentially 121 photographs of doorways that I’d encountered over a period of five or six years in various travel around the world. The images were grouped in strings of three, then hung in columns in front of brown paper, further suggesting the presence of a doorway. The pieces were also priced at $121.
I wondered at the time how much to discuss my thoughts behind the exhibit, because attendees provided so many different responses to the work. Some pieces sold because someone had discovered a personal tie to a specific location or city where an image was taken. Others were purchased because someone simply liked the colors.
Indeed for me, part of being drawn to the project was the appreciation of a scene or perhaps the humor behind an image – one picture I remember captured the entrance to the Coney Island Psychic’s place of business. To me, the beauty of enjoying art and creating art is that you can leave it right there – go further with any analysis if you like, or simply leave it at that and go on about your business.
However, there was something else that primarily drove the creation of those works over the years. I discovered after taking the first few images from that collection, that I had unknowingly created certain rules that guided the taking of any related, qualifying photos. There was a consistency in the framing of the scene that had to occur. Certain locations were immediately disqualified for inclusion because of certain reasons that could or could not be named. There were not to be any people in any of the images. The scenes were not to be staged. On some level, I wondered repeatedly during the process, what entity or mechanism governed this body of law guiding the work. I’m not exactly sure what to call it, but I believe any artist can encounter this and ponder the source.
A Study In Obsession
Over time, new rules were “adopted” in the creative processes and installation procedures for the project. Once it came time to display, I had found a certain kind of clip that was perfect for hanging the pictures. Each of these clips were positioned in the exact same way for each one of the 121 pictures. Display of the images was guided largely by symmetry and numbers rather than the space itself. There was symmetry in the display of the very number “121.” The images were displayed in groups of three . . . (1 + 2 x 1) and (1 x 2 + 1 ) both equal three. The images were priced at $121. There were all these little connections that I found myself making both consciously and subconsciously. Privately, I referred to the collection as being most accurately described as a study in obsession.
So, we return to the present day, when I choose whether to capture an image of a particularly intriguing doorway scene or just keep walking. Deep down there is a compulsion to pause and commit to disk that specific, framed moment. Why? What am I going to “do” with that image? Do I keep taking these pictures and become the Doorway Guy?
But then again, that’s the beauty in it, isn’t it? We can capture that moment to memory – biological or flash. We can appreciate it simply for what it is and leave it at that.