HARVEY LLOYD’S “BREAKING THE LIGHT”

Text and Photography by Harvey Lloyd

This blog is part of a series entitled Secrets of Eternal Youth.

Secrets of Eternal Youth

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Secrets of Eternal Youth is a Kerouacian road trip through the mental universe with a merry prankster at the wheel. Lloyd is Coyote, the Trickster, who brings us the fire of imagination that is able to see the quantum foam of the universe in the dancing of Jackson Pollack—that allows us to feel the wild excitement of being alive. Secrets is an explosion of metaphor that reprograms our synapses, stretches our minds, and reminds us that we are all youthful poets.

Each Photograph Made by Harvey Lloyd During A Single Exposure In His Digital Camera, Copyright © 2016

HARVEY LLOYD’S “BREAKING THE LIGHT”
Digital Camera Paintings

a review by David Smucker

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It has been remarked that with the invention of photography by Niepce and others almost two hundred years ago, painting was finally freed from the bonds of realism. Painters set out on the path to modernist abstraction, which became one of the medium’s finest achievements. Because the photographer could produce an image that more closely resembled reality than painting, the painter was allowed, indeed compelled, to travel down different creative paths. Photographers would preserve an accurate transcription of reality in sharp contrast to the abstraction embraced by painters.

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The success of, say, Jackson Pollock and Ansel Adams came from their adherence to these two distinctly different sets of ‘formal’ properties. Adams presented nature’s beauty while Pollock, the rebel, “threw” buckets of paint on canvas. At the time, Pollock was considered either crazy or contemptuous of painting. It took nearly ten years for the public and the art world to accept his drip paintings. If photography freed painting from the bonds of realism, after almost 200 years of realism, the question is “what will free photography?”

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Harvey Lloyd’s new series of photographs, Breaking the Light, (named and worked on with Lloyd by artist/photographer Ivana Lovincic) is an answer to this question, one that leaps free of the conventions of realism to create glowing abstractions of colored lights. Rebelling against photography’s apparent inability to move beyond an attachment to realism, Lloyd has made a new kind of images in his digital cameras. These images showcase the ability of new digital technologies to create images which break photography’s ties to reality. They provoke the art of photography to stop running in circles.

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Lloyd takes long, complex exposures in New York City’s streets at night with his 35 mm Canon digital camera. He abandons the quest to capture the full tonal range afforded by the light of day. Far from static and serene cityscapes, his photographs exuberantly embrace the energy of the city and its inhabitants. The word embrace, though, doesn’t fully cover what’s going on in these photos. These works are a dance with the light. Trusting an intuitive response to the rhythms and patterns of colored lights illuminating the city, Lloyd moves himself and his camera in time to their unseen rhythms. Each exposure done this way is unpredictable, made in a kind of wild and blind trance. Lloyd must surrender to the power of light as it tears though the darkness. In his dance he follows the light, enabling it to reveal its secrets to him.

With the record of the dance loaded into his state-of-the-art Mac computer workstations, Lloyd develops a further visual understanding of the knowledge he’s been granted by the light. He explores and accentuates the colors and patterns of the light’s dance in Photoshop. Here the images, removed from any semblance of the visible reality from which they derive, explode into full life. We see an abstract world of light which challenges centuries old assumptions that photography must remain stagnant in its description of reality. In these photographs, the fresh celebration and exploration of light itself, flaunts rainbows of colors. Beautiful and iconoclastic, Breaking the Light shows new possibilities for our understanding of photography, and importantly, light and life itself.

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Lloyd’s sense of the adventure and excitement necessary for an artist’s life has kept him from being chained to a single kind of photography. This has led not only to his venture into the Breaking the Light series, but to an expansion of kinds of work within this series. The dancing photographs described above, from the series Electricity, could be described as ‘action photography’, likening them to Jackson Pollock’s painting style. Because of Lloyd’s passion for many different abstract artists, other notable associations break forth in Breaking the Light’s various parts.

The series Enigmas immediately recalls color field painting, and at first glance could easily be mistaken for it. Among other artists, Mark Rothko’s influence can be felt here. Rothko intended his paintings to encompass their audience and flood their imaginations with the expressive and emotional force of the paintings, granting the conditions for their spirit to be moved. This yearning for a spiritual experience necessitated a remove from the recognizable world, because the things we associate with the objects in our daily lives separate us from our inner selves.

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Not one to succumb to the notion that a photographer is limited by his medium to the reproduction of everyday reality, Lloyd instead pushes the envelope of photography. His Enigmas delve into a world of sheer color playing against itself in ways alternately exciting, meditative, and gently moving. These photographs isolate the expressive elements of his digital captures and use them, like Rothko used his pigments, to create a spiritual photography. By using the digital technology now available he produces photographic compositions that stir the soul in ways which words about and pictures of ‘normal’ reality cannot.

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The recognizable isn’t entirely absent from all of the pictures in Breaking the Light, however. Like Wassily Kandinsky’s paintings, some of Lloyd’s photographs provide oblique references to things in the world. Sometimes neon signs make their message clear even when engulfed by a swirling cloud of electric light. These small hints anchor these pictures, giving the viewer a response to the question that inevitably comes with difficult photography: “what is that?” Of course, the answer isn’t always helpful or informative. The short answer, “a sign” fails to really say what these are photographs of. When a recognizable skyline or monument manages to emerge from these images, it provides a link to our reality. Where the average photograph provides a link to reality which affirms our normal perceptions, however, Lloyd’s connections do more questioning than answering. Because they provide only frustrating answers to the question of what the ‘thing’ in the photograph is, a different question is necessary: “what is it about?”

It helps, in answering this question, to take a look at Lloyd’s photographic career up to Breaking the Light. He’s been an accomplished travel, adventure, and aerial photographer for many years, taking pictures which are stunning in their own right, but that definitely fit the mold of what we expect good photography to look like. They look clean and polished, ready to give us things we haven’t seen before, but they don’t question what or how we see. Breaking the Light is this photographer’s question to photography: “what else can you do?” He has gotten a response. Photography can be an exploration of altered, abstract perception. By altering the surface, Lloyd has, in addition to creating often beautiful photographs, pushed our thoughts deeper than the surface, deep into our own minds and our thoughts about vision and pictures.

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Friedrich Nietzsche remarks that, through the physiological processes that convert the light that exists in the world into the perceptions that we experience, what we think of as of ‘true vision’ is really already metaphorical. When, then, we claim that photography reproduces the world truly, we have a bad idea of what truth and perception are. Breaking the Light can be a vehicle for the thought that brings us to this realization. Ultimately, what we encounter in these photographs is our own perception. We must confront what we think of as reality and see that it is only a small portion of the large and dynamic truth that exists outside of the way we normally see things. In addition to demanding more from photography, Breaking the Light demands more from its audience. We must take nothing for granted, and we must be ready to dance with, to explore, and to embrace the possibilities of a perception that Harvey Lloyd’s photography has freed our eyes to see.

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