Strips of Cloth

Being Found in Human Form, photograph by Barry Sherbeck

I recently created some new photographs for an art exhibit called “rumors.” The exhibit was installed at Christ Presbyterian Church in Madison, WI, during the Christian season of Advent.¬†With 9 artists participating, in a diverse range of media, we created all new works which have to do with the mystery of hearing something intriguing or exciting or unbelievable or scary (or all of the above) and wondering if it’s true, what it means, and whether we really understand the message and the implications. Word travels fast, and far.

One of the challenges I gave myself was to create an image for the exhibit using only light and strips of linen cloth. The Christmas story interestingly describes the baby “wrapped in strips of cloth” (not so unlike the later stories about the burial of this same person, decades later). This makes for an interesting material pair of book-ends around the life of this person. I decided that moving strips of cloth, and recording that movement along with its highlights and shadows, might make for an interesting image. I ended up selecting two of the resulting images (from over 200 images) to include in the exhibit.

What I found as I worked with the material, light, and movement, was some of the images of the strips of cloth contained what looked like an emerging human figure or face, the way the images were recorded in the camera. I found this fascinating: me setting up the conditions — material, lighting, photographic technique, movement, and motion blur — such that they are ripe for these images to materialize. At the same time, I didn’t directly control the exact recorded images themselves, there was an element of experimenting and collaborating with the material and light, and the unpredictability of the resulting images. I refined the angles, settings, movement, lighting, and composition for a few hours as I worked on this.

The next stage of making these images was selecting which ones to use, and titling them as an exercise of interpretation and suggestion for how they might be received by the viewer. And there’s always the surprise of what the viewer might see… two viewers I spoke with, at different times, saw dancers in one of these images, which I still cannot really see in the way they saw it. I love that.

The final stage was printing and making custom frames for these images in a way that might uniquely present them to the viewer.

So here are the two images. And more information about the exhibit is available at this Facebook page for “rumors.”

Being Found in Human Form, photograph by Barry Sherbeck

Being Found in Human Form, photograph by Barry Sherbeck, 2013


The Image of the Invisible, photograph by Barry Sherbeck

The Image of the Invisible, photograph by Barry Sherbeck, 2013



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