Artist Statement

from below
My photographic work has always been interested in issues of perception, analyzing the way we look at and see the world around us. This has led me to experiment with many different cameras and film types: stereo cameras, toy cameras with plastic lenses, “half frame” cameras, pinhole cameras, with infrared film as well as various “normal” color and black and white films. In recent years I’ve been particularly focused on working with a variety of pinhole cameras.

I’ve become fascinated with the way the pinhole camera can transform very ordinary and mostly overlooked parts of nature and make them suddenly become a mixture of beautiful, awe inspiring and even frightening. The pinhole—or lens-less camera—has the unusual characteristic of being able to show everything at an equal sharpness. Nothing is out of focus—from subjects less than an inch from the camera to those hundreds of feet away—something conventional cameras are incapable of doing. This allows us to see very small subjects with clarity while also showing the larger context. Additionally, because the cameras I use have a wide angle of view, there is a startling shift in proportions. Objects close to the camera take on a larger-than-life quality while those more distant begin to look much smaller than we normally perceive them to be. This has the effect of inverting our human perceptions of spatial and size relationships.

The strangeness of the pinhole image allows me to take greater distance from the “normal” and human perceptions of the natural world. This has the effect of disrupting what we have come to understand as the “natural order of things.” Little weeds that one rarely notices (except with irritation) are seen from their own perspective and consequently cease to be insignificant while natural objects big enough to capture the attention of humans are pushed into the background to the point of insignificance.

The resulting vision has a quality of the prehistoric—not only in the sense where the monstrous size of elements evokes some bygone age of mythic and titanic scale--but also in not showing a human presence. Humans are completely absent from the pictures and it’s not clear if we have yet to arrive in this world or if we’ve already become extinct.

All images copyright © 2001-2017 Michael McCarthy, all rights reserved.