Dennis Cordell | About

Like many photographers, I was trained as a painter. Unlike painting, photography is literally writing with light in which information becomes the narrative brought into the picture. This narrative records perceptions known through the optical unconscious, but not accurately articulated, to become incipit. Photographic images are thus perceived differently than painted images. Photographs are the residue of memory. The perceptual aspect of photographic image-making is what is so intriguing about photography as a medium of expression. The camera is a tool which allows the photographer to produce a philosophical investigation of an otherwise quite rational truth in an idiom which theorist Roland Barthes described as “an abstract circle of truths, outside of which alone the solid residue of an individual logos begins to settle.” The order of interpreting photographic argot is not, like a written text, left to right or right to left, but in all directions simultaneously. Such a construal allows the viewer to perceive a more arcane inner-statement as the eye continually returns to a central subject. Photography contributes to the dislocation of time and space through a semiotic structure to produce a phenomenological impact. The photographer Edward Putzar described such an approach in which the photographer must “...turn to Conceptual Photography through Zen camera of the mind. Or take up gardening––which is surely the most perfect practice of Zen outside of non-gardening.” As such, the photographer must allow the image to create a narrative of both a garden as well as a non-garden containing flowers and plants as well as the Nature Spirits that inhabit such a garden.


I prefer a square format for my photographs. For me, a square better isolates an experience while creating a world of seeming original experience and gestell. I can frame a memory in a more balanced fashion. Rectangular images create a tension as the eye moves from one side of the photo to the other, whereas a square encourages a more relaxed circular flow of vision. This relaxed vision allows the artist to, as the photographer Minor White suggested, “[l]et the subject generate its own photographs. Become a camera...” and thus “see through, not merely with, the eye, to perceive with the inner eye, and by an act of choice to capture the essence of that perception. This is the very core of the creative process.”


Although I prefer black and white film to produce my figurative images, I also like the abstraction of color images digitalized by a computer. As the painter Jackson Pollock noted “The modern artist is working with space and time, and expressing his feelings rather than illustrating.…Technique is just a means of arriving at a statement.” For more information about my philosophy on photography, I have written a book, THUSNESS AND IMAGE, illustrated with over 150 of my photographic images. The book is available at the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge Massachusetts: http:/ / www. harvard. com/ book/ thusness_ and_ image/