David Benjamin Sherry








Climate Vortex


Climate Vortex Sutra is a project that explores the canonical genres of historical photography, such as landscape, portraiture, still life, the nude, collage and darkroom photograms. I use the historic 8x10 large-format film camera, which allows for an unrivaled level of detail. However, when printing, I’m not always interested in depicting the way the subject appears in reality, but rather its potential for emotional resonance between viewer and subject. Color is a conduit for me to make those feelings visible. I often draw inspiration from the landscape in determining the final print color. My printing process uses the color film base as a starting point, but by adding or subtracting specific levels of cyan, magenta and yellow filtration, I can adjust the color of my prints and push them to a chromatic extreme. I discovered that this monochrome color adds a voice and energy to the landscape I’m depicting, something akin to my experience of traveling through these majestic places and witnessing the beauty firsthand.

Feeling intrigued by the drastic changes I had witnessed in the US landscapes I’ve been documenting, I spent a year planning, researching, and driving around the Western states photographing effects of climate change. I supplemented this landscape work with nude portraiture and still life photographs, with the intentions of  portraying the body as a landscape that is intertwined with the Earth as well as exploring ideas of queer ecology and ecofeminism. With this sequence of pictures, I was influenced by the formalist style of my f/64 predecessors, such as Edward Weston and Minor White but interested in subverting the F/64 context to create my own queer universe where formalist and historical tropes collide.

I created an installation with this work that exuded the psychological tension of our current “image culture” epoch and was interested in the idea of “floating screens” or “open windows” on a computer and attempted to attain this psychological space within the gallery. Many of the works are multi-layered references, such as the nod to T.S Elliot’s in Wilderness of Mirrors, Idaho 2014 or Time Past and Time Future, 2014. The title Climate Vortex Sutra itself is also a reference to Allen Ginsberg's famous poem Wichita Vortex Sutra. There are ideas of surveillance I’m interested in portraying as well, by taking a photograph of my own camera and installing it high above the gallery space, I hoped for it’s presence to feel uneasy, that the camera is always watching us (Out of My Love For You I Will Give You Back To Yourself, Los Angeles, 2014).

Interconnectedness between queer identity and the Earth has infused this series, I rely on my art practice to help me better understand our physical and spiritual connection with our planet. The formal, saturated image demands a second look, which may in turn help the viewer to re-visualize these familiar, even iconic terrains, and make more apparent our natural and sacred connections to them. Color can also indicate the presence of something unsettling below the surface. The pictures themselves become records of places that may soon be destroyed, as well as a means of grappling with the loss of the last remaining wilderness in our country. The acid-toned pictures are critical of the close human relationship to recent climate change. They explore our current “anthropocene” or geology and the ecosphere as it has been impacted by human activity.