Shadows

photogram booth & photogram series

2013

Anna Daedalus

Kerry Davis

When the atomic bombs detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, people within 300 meters of the hypocenters were instantly vaporized by the intense heat, leaving nothing behind but faint “shadows” on nearby walls, pavement, and other stone and concrete surfaces that weren’t vaporized with them.

— Karl Young, International Shadows Project, 1990

This series of life-size photograms by Anna Daedalus & Kerry Davis is meant to evoke those shadows. To create the images, we designed and built a custom photo booth where participants were invited to lend their shadows in commemoration. . . .  » MORE

> artists' statement

Click for full images:

Shadows studio installation, complete series, 2013Shadows studio installation, complete series, 2013Untitled (from Shadows series), 86″ × 42″, 2013Untitled (from Shadows series), 86″ × 42″, 2013Untitled (from Shadows series), 86″ × 42″, 2013Untitled (from Shadows series), 86″ × 42″, 2013Untitled (from Shadows series), 86″ × 42″, 2013Shadow Box public event at White Box, 2013 [photo: Tomas Valladares]Shadow Box public event at White Box, 2013 [photo: JC. Schlechter]Shadows study, 2013Shadows study, 2013Shadows study, 2012Shadow Box prototype at Director Park, Portland, Ore. August 6, 2012

Videos:

Shadows Shadows in process Shadows studio installation

Acknowledgments

Oregon Nikkei Endowment, The White Box at University of Oregon for hosting the Shadow Box Public Photo Session, Oregon College of Art and Craft Photography Department, Matt Kidder, Mark Rupert, Colin Bardon, Randal Groves, Tomas Valladares, Tommy Church & Scapelandia, Pacific Paper Tube, Inc., Standard & Paris Schaefer, Libby Cozza, Kelly Bryan, JC Schlechter, Don Kern, Howard Nathman, Robert Schlegel, Bill Schlegel, David Abel, Ken Miller, Scott Martin & Fast Bikes, 13 Hats, Brown Printing, Pushdot Studio, our Kickstarter supporters and Leo Daedalus / fluxmotiv.

Shadows is supported in part by a project grant from

Shadows catalogue design by

Artists' Statement

When the atomic bombs detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, people within 300 meters of the hypocenters were instantly vaporized by the intense heat, leaving nothing behind but faint “shadows” on nearby walls, pavement, and other stone and concrete surfaces that weren’t vaporized with them.

— Karl Young, International Shadows Project, 1990

Our series of life-size photograms is meant to evoke those shadows. To create the images, we designed and built a custom photo booth where participants were invited to lend their shadows in commemoration.

The experiential aspects of the booth and of the prints are central to the project, and intended to encourage embodied reflection and inquiry. Participants were led into the dark and carefully placed, leaning into and touching a sheet of photographic paper. They were asked to leave their eyes open and, after a disorienting flash of light exposed their silhouette, they often found themselves temporarily blind. In that instant, their presence — touch, fold of clothing, characteristic tilt of the head — transferred to the singular sheet of emulsion-coated paper. Tactile and free of the habitual self-consciousness of the photographic experience, the immediacy of this camera-less process translates into unique, hand-made prints which seem to hold palpable emanations of being.

In the gallery the Shadow’s blind gaze meets and mirrors that of the viewer, while the viewer’s body corresponds to and seemingly casts the Shadow on the wall. This moment of reciprocity evokes the figure’s ephemeral touch, enlivening the recorded image. Embodied understanding is key to the experience of these handmade photograms. Through vision we touch each Shadow and experience what Merleau-Ponty describes as an intertwining of the flesh and the world.1

Photography’s precarious relationship to memory and truth and its implication in the society of spectacle make hazardous territory of any photographic inquiry into suffering and violent death.2 Avoiding a sensationalistic recreation of the shadows left in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, these photograms commemorate an experience that is outside of memory for most viewers. The figures invite us to identify with a past event that we can only but try to imagine, and in our compassion, bring that past into our lived now.

Photographs are relics of the past, traces of what has happened. If the living take that past upon themselves, if the past becomes an integral part of the process of people making their own history, then all photographs would reacquire a living context, they would continue to exist in time, instead of being arrested moments. It is just possible that photography is the prophecy of a human memory yet to be socially and politically achieved.3

We look to the poetic potency of these Shadows as a way to approach the unfathomable: the sudden and violent erasure of a human being, whose only remaining trace is a shadow. To borrow the poet Susan Howe’s eloquent words, “If history is a record of survivors, poetry shelters other voices.”4 This project is intended as just such a shelter.

— Anna Daedalus & Kerry Davis

1 For an exploration of artmaking and embodied thinking, see Juhani Pallasmaa, The Thinking Hand, Existential and Embodied Wisdom in Architecture, John Wiley & Sons Ltd (Chichester), 2009.

2 For a discussion of these concerns in photography, see John Berger, “Uses of Photography” in About Looking, Pantheon Books (New York), 1980, pp 52–55.

3 John Berger, About Looking, p 57.

4 Susan Howe, Incloser, Weaselsleeves Press (Santa Fe), 1992.