T.W. Stanford Art Gallery October 8-December 8, 2013
This group of pictures was completely unexpected. I arrived in Italy last autumn as a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome, with plans for a project involving fascist-era beachfront architecture in Ostia, and perhaps something centered on gardens in the funky postwar outskirts of Rome. But on our first day there I made my own pilgrimage to the Pantheon, one of my favorite places to be in Rome, and usually a primary destination.
A constant stream of visitors enters and exits the Pantheon all day. For the most part, they have their recording devices held high over head as they enter, forgoing the old-fashioned step of looking at something first, then photographing it. No, these pilgrims have their memories immediately farmed out to digital data storage, safely ensconced for retrieval at some later date. There was something charming about it, something universal and soothing, not comical exactly but focused and intense, a hint of the divine in an otherwise mechanized world: Everyone gazing vicariously into the oculus, the eye of God. I fell into a rhythm, studying the screen of my own camera and watching for the moments of rapture and deep concentration, moving invisibly from one subject to the next. I was lost in my own rapture, my mind quiet but for the occasional visit from the ghost of Walker Evans, whose pictures of subway riders during the early 1940s were never far from my thoughts.
The 45 photographs in this exhibition were made on four days in October 2012 with the Sony Nex-7 digital camera. I want to thank my wife Terry Hogan for her love and thoughtfulness, Daniel Leivick for his advice and assistance in many aspects of this exhibition, Liz Celeste, Craig Weiss, Elisabeth Kohnke, Gail Wight, the Stanford University Department of Art and Art History, and the American Academy in Rome.
Joel Leivick Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor in Photography Department of Art and Art History Stanford University