Christine Elfman

Even Amaranth

Even Amaranth presents a selection of photographic stills in which the hunter becomes the hunted.  Whether through a stifling stillness or slow disappearance, these pictures remind us of the unintended consequences of voyeurism.  While attempting to secure the subject as image, landscapes turn barren, figures become statues, and still lives shift.   As a series, Even Amaranth explores photography’s defining features as a medium, both its incapacity to capture a subject and its corresponding fugitivity.

Even Amaranth - titled after the flower called “unfading” by the Greeks and associated with Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt and fertility features a selection of pictures that represent photography's impossible attempt to capture the subject through theme and substance.  The juxtaposition of landscapes, photograms, and fading anthotypes reveals the elusive character of the subject in photography and the fleeting, fraught relationship between viewer and viewed.

For this body of work, amaranth was grown from seed in order to make photographs from its dye. Impermanent pictures of marble statues and plaster casts of sculpture were made by exposing amaranth dye to the sun for weeks.  Capable of producing a deep red and tonal variations of orange and brown, the amaranth coating transforms over time, ultimately leaving a shadow image. This changes the subject of the image into a meditation on the viewer’s desire for it. The theme becomes the challenge of photography itself, which is compared—more generally—with the task of viewership: the more one tries to capture or “hunt” an object, the more it evades our grasp.   

These fading pictures are placed alongside archival silver gelatin and pigment prints of landscapes where the trace of human presence is now long absent, as if to suggest a fragmented narrative in which figure is unique from setting. Together, the pictures leave us to consider photography’s registration of the trace as part of a larger, unstable project of memory. From the reproduction of statues to the proliferation of mythology, this project has a longer history of mediation between ideals of the faithful copy and free transformation.

dimensions variable, 2016