Bruce Checefsky and Mary Quade

Bruce Checefsky, #13


Bruce Checefsky Artist Statement

A garden is a well-defined space, an enclosure, and a place of growth suggesting an interesting paradox between enclosing something inside something else, while giving it room to grow. In linguistic terms, a garden represent a type of book where individual flowers have various symbolic meanings, and the cluster of one group or another suggests an underlying narrative. Each flower type denotes a position in the narrative, much like a point of view in the photograph, where we see essentially what the photographer sees. A flower garden is complex and complicated, densely packed with layers upon layers of meaning. I find myself reading a garden with the same intensity as reading a book. More often than not, it feels like poetry.

Over the past five years, I’ve designed and built a flower garden in my back yard for the sole purpose of photographing it. More accurately, I scan my garden with a Photo Scanner. Similar to an SLR camera, the photo scanner uses a series of mirrors to reflect light to a photo sensor located behind a lens in the scanning platform. I stripped the device to its bare essentials and replaced the cathode fluorescent lamp with a more powerful bulb. The scanner is mounted to a tripod on its side, plugged into a laptop computer and powered by a lengthy extension cord. I take this equipment with me into the garden.

I use the re-purposed photo scanner as an improvised field camera, moving it close to the plants, and sometimes catching their stems, leaves and blossoms inside the scanner housing (the glass has been removed), causing an occasional digital glitch, a miniscule patch of neon color, or a peculiar blur. While the “photo-scanning” process involves no true depth of field because of the limited focal length of the scanner lens, the images that it yields possess both extreme flatness and great depth. The images are not manipulated or altered using Photoshop; the resulting colors are based on plant type, time of day and intensity of natural light.  Zinnia Elegans (Orange and Canary Bird Yellow) was made at night.


Response by Mary Quade

Camera as Jophiel



Man, like zinnias, common and unlikely.

Night in the garden, the two aflame.

The photographer captures the secret,

the firecracker the moment before it falls.

To be caught, to show both

sides of their petals—a release.

Something rustles into its hole.

Butterflies dangle out of sight, quiet,

but this isn’t sleep. He can’t quite

hear her; he leans, but she’s only

moving her lips. Crickets throb.

Moths smother honeysuckle.

The photographer collapses the tripod.

Something has happened, but

no one is yet sure what.

In addition to his photographic work, Bruce Checefsky has directed seven short experimental films based on lost, destroyed, or previously published film scenarios.  Mary Quade teaches at Hiram College, and is the author of Guide to Native Beasts.

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