Mike Cullen

Narrows Botanical Garden #2

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Narrows Botanical Garden #2

2011
2x5 in
Categories: Curate NYC. borough: Brooklyn. Art Medium: Photography.

Over the past few years, I’ve been working on an extensive series of images that share some common stylistic threads: they’re blurry, there are no people (indeed there’s rarely any evidence of humans at all), the subject matter is kept at some distance, and the colors are fairly vibrant.

The question is: Why?

Why am I compelled to make images like this? And what’s it got to do with black dogs?

A little personal history…

Over the past few years, whenever I’ve had the chance, I’ll tuck my little point and shoot camera into my back pocket and head over to one of my neighborhood’s parks. I have discovered on these outings that I can make the camera record painterly, blurry images by changing the focus setting to “macro” (that is, extreme closeup) and using it to shoot landscapes. I spend a little time in Photoshop tweaking Levels or Curves until it feels just right, and then I’m on to the next thing. 

Today, as I’m editing this long parade of blurry landscape images, I can see how my seeing has progressed and changed over the course of these years. 

Today, I can also see in my own pictures something new. Something that should have been obvious since I first discovered the macro-focus trick, but managed to remain invisible to me until now.

I was recently diagnosed with depression.  As I look at my photography today I can see that many of my images are a reflection of my struggles with this disease.

The out-of-focus, lonely, people-less world I have been photographing isn’t in the park down the street. 

It’s me. 

Which leads us back to the black dog.

It’s an old usage meaning a depression or sullen mood. Most notably, Winston Churchill was plagued by bouts of severe depression and came to call them visits from the black dog. As this series of pictures is a result of my experiences with depression, I thought I’d continue the tradition.

 

I hope that by sending these images out into the world they can help illuminate those without depression and maybe even alleviate those who do.

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