The Resurrection...

I wanted to post this here for you all to read as it is quite simply a beautifully written piece regarding my Salton Sea project. Its by a very good writer friend of mine and was originally intended as a book forward. But things change, people have fights and small battles are fought. I do plan to bring the Salton work into the light and there is at present talk of a new book thingy, but who knows the truth surrounding such things... This is one of the dangers of running several projects at once as it becomes far to easy to neglect certain images and bodies of work. One minute your in the desert, the next thing your knee deep in snow or perhaps up a cherry tree...
Anyways read this and weep;

The Salton Sea foreword

Upon first reflection, it is the absence of life that is most apparent in Marcus Doyle's work. Yet, closer inspection finds that life is indeed there, but it is hidden and far from view, subterranean, almost outlawed. And so it is at southern California's Salton Sea; the largest lake in California, which was formed in 1905 after heavy rains and melting snow, caused the Colorado River to flood and breach at the Imperial Valley. For a time the Salton Sea was actually a bigger tourist attraction than Yosemite National Park, but now is little more than a sparsely inhabited ghost town, haunting visitors with lives once lived, others only half lived, and some never even begun.

To an outsider the Salton Sea probably represents an apocalyptic vision of the future, a man-made seaside town that has been ravaged by nature; chaotic, dirty, disorganized and left to rot like the dead fish that often gather up on its shores. But that is only the starting point for Marcus Doyle; it is the beauty amidst the tragedy that truly interests him. When viewing Doyle's work you are reminded of the old adage, even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day. Viewed at the right hour and in just the right light, even the most dank, destroyed place may take on a beauty and truth that can change our perceptions of that which we call paradise. Without an artist like Doyle to stop time and capture the oft-unseen beauty, we may never behold its profound magnificence.

Doyle avoids the well-trodden path of previous explorers of the Salton Sea, choosing instead to focus on the splendor that once was. As in all his work, he is more interested in how life operates in spite of concrete intrusion or ruin through flood--there is never a sense of pity, more so a feeling of respect for the valiance and heroism that emerges from the swamp of hardship. But he also inadvertently finds a strange renewal, a kind of re-birth that the current residents form by their determined presence in the face of such slow decay.

From my own firsthand experience (I made three trips out to the Salton Sea), I have learned that beneath Doyle's meticulous planning and carefully thought out composition lies what some might call the music of chance, in other words, openness to spontaneity, where rather than being constrained by the ever changing strands of light, he instead works with the moving picture, like a jazz musician takes a note and riffs on it during a jamming session. His process is slow. He is dedicated to capturing within the swiftly sinking magic hour and often only procures a couple of photographs per trip. His shots are always first seen and then noted down. He lives with them in his mind allowing time to pass (often weeks) and then sees them again with fresh eyes on the day of the trip. The resulting shots are then reinterpreted through his relationship to the light as it makes a willing supplication to the coming darkness.

Upon talking to Marcus (often on our long trips back and forth out to the desert) he expressed a strong advocacy for the process of film in all its various stages; the taking of the picture, the uncertainty of what is captured, the time that passes and finally the reveal in the developing. Interestingly, in his early years Doyle developed and printed pictures for many respected photographers who trusted his dedication to perfection in the final outcome. Now it is he who is able to put the finishing touch to the work as it eventually reaches completion. For him there are artistic decisions and choices made within each stage, even before the shot has been developed. What is clear is that he is more drawn to this storied way of taking pictures than the immediate gratification of digital photography.

For Doyle The Salton Sea quickly became more than just an interesting place to take photographs. As the project took shape it became as much about the journey there and back, morphing into what Doyle began to lovingly refer to as “the daytrip.” A word that for him harkens back to his childhood when like all traditional British families his parents would organize seasonal day trips to seaside towns such as Blackpool, Morcambe and Whitley Bay--all of which have featured prominently in his growth as an artist. In fact he studied photography in Blackpool. One of his most recognizable works (#8 Whitley Bay) highlights this stark, lonely coastal town, filled with the ghosts of people who have come and gone, a place that calls out to be populated again with the bustle, noise and charm of life. The Salton Sea certainly lends itself to Doyle’s aesthetic. Indeed, it is worth remembering that the incredible popularity of the town in the fifties had started to rapidly decline in the late sixties/early seventies and by the mid eighties the state was warning residents of the high toxicity levels in the lake. Along with the increased toxins came high levels of Saline, (the Sea actually has an even greater saline quality than ocean water) which in turn caused a sudden increase in Phytoplankton algae; an organism that has a rather foul smell not unlike rotten eggs. This decay saw to it that by the late eighties the people were all but gone and what remained was a feeling of what once was. That void and energy left behind when the people leave, is a mystery to which Marcus Doyle’s photography seems inextricably bound.

Much has been made of the dilapidation of this once thriving community, but Doyle’s lens often chooses instead to focus on the regenerative quality of man in the face of such despair. Many of the photographs in this series show signs of life that is not only still present, but also actually coming back to the area. This regeneration is mirrored in the sea, which is constantly re-circulating, due in large part to agricultural run-off from irrigation in the Imperial and Coachella Valleys.

The heart of Marcus Doyle’s work beats with disparity. The pictures are often of modern subjects, but the process of taking them is very old. Pictures such as #___ and #___ also show us that there is something otherworldly about the work, almost as if the people have been removed by someone or something. Perhaps the most astonishing truth is that he never removes anything from his pictures either manually or digitally. This is the world as we know it, albeit for brief glimpses. There has been no alien abduction. Instead we are left with an eerie, yet comfortable feeling that when faced with no people, it only makes us see the landscape with even more clarity and elucidation.

At first glance, the Salton Sea represents a world marginalized and separate to the world in which most of us live. However, look a little deeper, as in each time the water recedes, and what comes to the surface are the same lives, pastimes and habits you might find anywhere else in America. People watch television, make dinner, read a book--it is only the grandeur and serenity that is missing. Perhaps from the outside it looks very different but once inside it all, we see a familiar fumbling toward the same inevitable end; where the only thing that can be hoped for is a life lived.

1 comment:

floot said...

brings a tear to my eye xx