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Artist's Statement I'm often asked what, how, and why I make photographs. My safe epistemological reply to these three weighty questions is, "I don't know. Perhaps I never will." Equally disappointing is my smug reply, "I photograph instinctively what I can't paint because I can't draw," which compounds my obligation to reflect more thoughtfully. A more reflective reply to the first question, what I photograph, is simply myself: reality's flickering shadow in Plato's cave; bipolar tension, real or imagined, of life's ebb and flow, tidal gravity, ecological balance; lust of success v. agony of loss; freedom of choice v. uncertainty of risk; intoxication of life v. naiveté of celebrity. In short, to identify, analyze, explicate, explore, and ponder what it means to be human - dense, complex, mysterious - is my primary focus. At worst, viewers will find my work interesting. At best, they will recognize a modest attempt to pursue the Bard's "sweet uses of adversity." A more pensive reply to the second question, how I photograph, is simply a two-step process: pre- and post-visualization. Before I photograph, nodding to Roland Barthes' Camera Lucinda, I consider broad nets and sharp hooks. Broad nets are cultural webs, historical referents, or common experiences that lure and trap a viewer's awareness. Sharp hooks are differentiating details that prick, bite, or stab a viewer's attention. A family picnic, for example, is a broad net; a man bravely spraying lighter fluid on charcoal with one hand and a can of beer in the other with a woman frowning behind him is the hook. After I photograph, I tweak hue, contrast, saturation, and/or sharpness to enhance distinguishing features and incorporate an edgy, surreal dimension. A more introspective reply to the third question, why I photograph, is simply to fill temporal, spacial, psycho-social holes and on good days, bowing this time to the acclaimed psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, to enjoy the flow: that is, a mental state of operation in which I'm fully immersed in what I'm doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. Before I began to draft this statement, I promised myself that I would try to avoid two weary cliches in artists' statements. The first is a penchant for tired terms like metaphor, dialogue, and philosophy. The second are lightly breaded references to Sartre's existential "nothingness" (e.g., Pierre's absence in the cafe.) and Wittgenstein's "mysticism" (e.g., Things that cannot be put into words.). If, however, critics choose, like judges on Bravo's "Top Chef," to critique my work in terms of the former's Being and Nothingness and/or the latter's Tractatus, they are invited to feast. James Paradiso March, 2010 galleryparadiso.biz Highland Park, Illinois USA


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