METHOD =’s MANIFESTOLew Thomas - Home Page



If the world were clear, art would not exist. --Albert Camus


If there is a code to my photography, it is clarity – work detached from the retarding influences of good taste and mystery. The fixed-image is displaced by systematic ideas producing a radicalized photographic object.


The most complete reduction of photography I could conceive formally comes from the words “black” and “white.” If this seems remote to the concerns of photography, it nonetheless resulted in the overturn of the visual object for work leading to structure and time – a dimension that enables two identical events occurring at the same pointing space to be distinguished and measured by the interval between the events.


The demo piece made from this plan of photographic speculation was BLACK & WHITE. The work was made with transfer type impressed on acetate that acted as surrogate negatives which were then mechanically processed like snapshots. A total commitment was made to let the work stand for itself -- no self indulgence in taste, style or interpretation. I began at the beginning.


The production of BLACK & WHITE made it clear that I did not need a pictorial image to make a photograph. I did not need to go anywhere to take a photograph. In fact, the only content I would ever need photographically was already in my head. To progress, I needed structure: BLACK & WHITE represents the framework on which all subsequent work is built.


Before the first work was completed, I was thinking about Time as a subject for another piece. Irrelevant details complicating the subject of Time were eliminated until I had reduced the process to a camera, a roll of film, and a lab clock. I had no pre-knowledge of how the piece would look or what problems lie ahead. The uncertainty of what I was doing intensified my awareness of methodology. I soon found procedure and process to be significant levels of construction indistinguishable from the content.


TIME EQUALS 36 EXPOSURES (each panel: 4 ft.sq.) was made systematically step-by-step. The presentation of the concept of Time was identified with the practice of photography. 36 photographs of a GraLab clock turning counter-clockwise were taken and developed. Since I had 36 negatives, I made 36 prints each 8" x 10". The photos of the clock face were cropped to an 8” square format. The presentation emphasized the flat, two-dimensional face of the GraLab clock. Only the hands of the clock bare witness to human presence by their acid corrosion. The 36 - 8" x 8" prints were dry mounted to a single surface that produced a work whose scale dwarfed the art photography done at this time. Glossy prints were used in opposition to the matte-surface of most fine art photography. The prints were mounted in a sequence similar to a contact sheet. The systematic development of TIME EQUALS 36 EXPOSURES was resolved when a second panel was joined to the original construction made from positive film. When the work was completed, its 72 prints (2 panels) measured 4 feet x 8 feet. The work has no hidden messages. The work was physical and opaque, its final objective nothing more than the systematic exploration of the photographic process and its corresponding structure.




Structural (ism) and Photography, copyright Lew Thomas, 1978, pp. 7-9; Published by NFS Press San Francisco.


The theory behind the original work can be found now – 2002 – in web examples that include: installations, bibliographies, bookspines, analog photos made from video, and digital pictures made from computer generated imagery.