What does it mean to really see? David Lubbers is always asking this question and seeking to answer it in his photographs.
In this striking collection, photographs from different times and places are paired in a way that heightens the similarity of both their form and their feeling. The pairings encourage viewers to see the range of correlations that link the photographs.
But to really see these photographs is also to recognize the singularity of artistic purpose that has marked Lubbers� work over the past twenty-five years—what Jon Burris, director of the Brett Weston Archive, calls "the persistence of vision." Lubbers� vision goes beyond form and technique. It is a vision shaped by his deep respect for the places and people he photographs, and by his enduring reverence for nature and life.
|Publisher:||Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company|
|Product dimensions:||10.30(w) x 11.36(h) x 0.60(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The Persistence of Vision
I became aware of the photography of David Lubbers in 1984, when he contacted me and said he would like to show me recent work he had made in the Four Corners region of the Southwest. During a long-distance call, he explained that he was from Michigan but traveled frequently. He sad he worked more or less in the tradition of "straight" landscape photography. My mind raced ahead of his words, and I could see print after print of sunlit mesas and rolling clouds. In amazing detail I could envision the rocky walls of the Canyon de Chelly rendered in delicate tones, stretching in the distance to a thin horizon. It was not too difficult a vision to call up because I had seen it all before. It was as if every aspiring photographer east of the Rockies had had a revelation after discovering their first book of Ansel Adams' photographs made in the great American West. They were inspired to go there too, believed that what they would photograph in the same locations would be different. Many of them had brought the results to me in the hope that I could sell their work. To my great surprise and relief, David's photographs were different. Like all true artists (as opposed to photographers striving to be recognized as artists), David had used his medium to make visible a very personal interpretation of the world that he was exploring. It is that exploration, and our friendship of fifteen years, that brings me to what I have to say about his work as it appears in this book.
As an artist, David has always acknowledged his genre to be landscape, and he's never personally had a problem with being identified with a long line of American landscape photographers. Ansel Adams always had a way with vistas—those kinds of landscapes that draw upon the relationship between the near and the far, revealing the all-encompassing beauty and splendor of the natural environment. On the other hand, photographer Paul Caponigro turned a mystical eye on his world, utilizing the atmospheric qualities of light and the studies contemplation of "place" to subtly reveal what he referred to as the "landscape behind the landscape." Then again there was Brett Weston, who could stand in front of the same scene as Adams and Caponigro and come away with a totally different, usually abstracted view of the landscape. All there of these artists (with whom I had the pleasure to work) were at their zenith in the late twentieth century, and all three have had an amazing influence on an entire generation of photographers that came after them, David Lubbers included.
Undoubtedly, one does find the play of near and far perspective in many of David's images�. It is a testament to David's work, however, that I have never looked at any of it and said, "That reminds me of a photography of Ansel's or Brett's picture of such-and-such." In fact, the highest compliment I can give his work is to say that it is the product of a singular and consistent vision, and I have always believed that.
I have always believed in what I call "the persistence of vision." This is something that can be detected only over an extended period of time; in my opinion, it identifies a photographer's understanding of his medium. I have had the opportunity to recognize this in David's photographs by comparing them over the years, and the concept is illustrated perfectly in the pairing of images in this book.
Consider for a moment that if you were to stand in a certain place and look around until your eyes settled on a particular point, you would in essence be framing a scene in much the same way a photographer selects what he sees within the borders of his viewfinder. If you then searched within your frame of sight, isolating shape and pattern, line and contrast, you would begin to see in a less literal, more abstract sense. You would be "seeing" in much the same way as a photographer who works in black and white: he must pre-visualize what he knows will appear on his negative. In time, the photographer's intuition, born of experience, takes over to the degree that he can select his subject, isolate his impressions of it, and overlay the imprinted memory of similar subjects. Seeing photographs in pairs, as the viewer is invited to do here, provides a valuable way to study a body of work, not only because it suggests comparisons but also because it makes clear the transparent line which runs through all photographs that are the result of persistent vision, no matter what their subject may be. I always look for consistency and the "transparent line" in the work of photographers who bring me their prints to consider. In the beginning of our relationship, David would arrive on my doorstep, typically in the spring, with cases of photographs all mounted, overmatted, and ready for presentation—all the product of his previous year's work. For a long time, the West remained a favorite subject, but slowly I began to see the results of his increasing trips to Mexico. It was evident that the basic elements of form and structure that could be found in David's photographs made in the canyonlands of Utah were repeated in his architectural studies of abandoned buildings in Oaxaca and Pátzcuaro. The line running through his work was clear�.
An interesting recurring theme in David's recent work is the inclusion of people. His "street portraits," by current definition, are considered environmental, always including elements of the subjects' surroundings. But much like his other photographs, they are quiet and respectful�. Given this new direction, it didn't come as a surprise when David called me recently to say that he was headed to Cuba—not to have an adventurous vacation but simply to work. It is my feeling that the photographs he made there on his first trip, many of which include the human figure, represent some of the most elegant images he has made to date. In these photographs I can identify all of the elements of style that David has developed over two decades—chiefly, a respect for form, the careful composition that more often than not uses vertical lines to divide spatial planes, and the democratic division of black-and-white tones that rarely allows one to dominate over the other. I am also reminded of something that Minor White once said about one of his own images: "While rocks were photographed, the subject is not rocks; while symbols seem to appear, they are only pointers to significance. The real meaning appears in the space between the images; in the mood it raises in the beholder." On the occasion of the publication of this book, I trust that the meaning and significance of David Lubber's work will become as evident to those who see it as it has long been to me.
Jon Burris has been a photographers, a curator, a fine-art dealer, and a publisher. He was directly of photography for the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center, Oklahoma City, and is currently director of the Brett Weston Archive, Oklahoma City. He is also on the advisory boards of numerous museums in Oklahoma and is president of Portfolio, Inc., a fine-art consulting company.