The Master Gallery
May 2, 2019 – July 27, 2019
Eyes in the Back of My Head
By Allen Furbeck
To what extent are we the authors, the creators, of our own experiences? How much are these predetermined by the brains or senses we are born with and to what extent do we shape our brains through experience? – Oliver Sacks
I photograph to see what something will look like photographed. – Garry Winogrand
As both a painter and a photographer, I have always tried to make work that is experientially pow- erful as well conceptually complex. My most recent photos, from the series “Eyes in the Back of My Head,” are an attempt to reimagine images of landscape, and to reflect my experience of being a part of, rather than separate from it. It is an experience of being enveloped, immersed or entwined in nature, of being sucked in and spun around, of being reconfigured by it. I am trying to create an experience that is both renewing and a bit frightening; kaleidoscopic, hallucinogenic, therapeutic, exhilarating and calming.
I think of my palette as not just color but also space, light, and time, perception, meaning, un- derstanding and knowing. I am interested in both the particulars of making photographs and the broad questions of our mental processes, and how these two interact with each other. As a example: In taking spherical panoramas, I am capturing what can be seen in all directions from a single viewpoint — not just the wide-angle horizontals that are the conventional panorama, but views that are not simultaneously per- ceivable, that are of necessity composed of multiple perceptions. This is to my mind an important aspect of how we experience the world, a composite of temporal perceptions fused into an atemporal whole.
It has also changed how I view a scene when I’m out taking pictures, and therefore how I look at landscape even when I’m not. Where previously I would be mentally “framing” an image in front of me, I now see something interesting in the landscape and then immediately ask myself, “What does it look like behind me, above me, below me?”
Each image begins with a multishot panorama capture, usually spherical. Using various geometric pro- jections, I then transpose the capture back onto a flat plane to print it. There are usually several different final images that come from each original capture. This is in part a nod to how different a location can seem at different times, of how it is continually changing both objectively and subjectively. However, it is also a result of how important a sense of play and the spark of surprise are to me. Most photographers are aware of how different a photo can be from what one expects when pushing the shutter button. In the same way these photos push the limits of the panoramic, they also push the limits of how the process can change one’s expectations of the final image. I have gotten much better over time at choosing a locus from which to shoot, but I am still unable to predict the final outcome. I never know what exactly will come next with these images, and that is a big part of why they continue to intrigue me.
I shoot numerous images for each capture. It takes at least 38 images for each capture, usually between 120 and 500, and sometimes over a thousand. This leads to a very high level of resolution in most parts of the photo. (In other parts the image can be greatly stretched and so become much softer.) The high reso- lution is what makes the photos striking at large sizes, but it is difficult or impossible to see that in a small reproduction. To help imagine the larger scale I have included cropped details on the pages following each finished image. These details would be roughly 7” x 9” in a final large size print.
Large scale, wide perspective, and high dynamic range all combine to make these photos very labor in- tensive. I usually finish one or two of the final images of a series, and make working versions of the others. Final versions are ready to print, but the working versions require more processing, roughly one to three months, to complete. These versions may change somewhat before they are finished, and are available on a commissioned basis.