Lydia Anne McCarthy
In A Northern Country Series, 2011
In my work I employ the materiality of photography to alter the way we perceive the world around us. These photographs are dependent upon the mechanics of the camera to create new modes of seeing. I am interested in subverting the assumptions we make about our reality by asking the viewer to relearn information about what they are looking at and not to rely on what they know. By manipulating the tools of photography I attempt to reveal a world we aren’t generally able to experience.
With the support of an American-Scandinavian Foundation Fellowship, I have traveled with researchers into remote forests that were once used by the indigenous, reindeer-herding people of Scandinavia, the Sami. The northwest of Sweden is stark and craggy, with clear-cut vistas surrounding vast expanses of untouched, Scotts pine forest. Throughout these woods, one can encounter sacred trees, boulders, mountains and settlements once inhabited by the Sami. Drawing from a rich tradition of spirit photography and early experiments with the medium, I populate this landscape with ghostly figures, two headed-mystics and indecipherable signs. I weave these manipulated images with empty, eerie environments layered with cultural traces, building an imagined underworld and blurring the line between what is real and what is created.
Shadows and Reflections Series, 2011
…I’m going to smile, and my smile will sink down into your pupils, and heaven knows what it will become.
-from "No Exit" by Jean Paul Sartre
These photographs are visions, flashes, and hallucinations of moments from the past. Each image vibrates with the thin traces of memory and attempts to gain access to the archive of the unconscious. The lens of this camera has the ability to simultaneously mutate and beautify; it creates a flickering vortex of darkness and light. I am asking both the viewer and myself: what do you at once desire and fear? And how does this alter your perception of the world?
Refraction Series, 2010
"Another person, for us, is a spirit which haunts a body and we seem to see a whole host of possibilities contained within this body when it appears before us; the body is the very presence of these possibilities."
In the Refraction series I photograph people using a self-constructed camera on which I have replaced the lens with a fresnel, or magnifying sheet. The resulting images are impressions of refracted light, with the highlights rendered as spectrum and the darker areas as undefined lines and shapes.
For my subjects I choose people who I desire but do not know; people I believe to have characteristics I want to possess. I am not interested in who they really are, but in who I perceive them to be. For me, this work is about an intense longing to experience a reality that is not your own.
Still Life Series, 2010'Still Life' explores the illusory nature of perception and desire. I use mirrors, prisms, magnifying glasses and other optical elements to set up simple experiments that reveal the illusion of the photograph, while at the same time propagating that illusion. In these experiments I introduced the physical presence of my hand, referencing the hand of the artist and breaking the fourth wall.