Above: Cross Overlooking Bethlehem, PA (After Walker Evans), 1996, Silver Gelatin Print, 4/10
Linda Cummings is one of many talented photographers with works in LUAG’s exhibition Revisiting South Bethlehem. Below is a brief conversation between Linda and Ricardo about her works in the exhibition.
RV: You bring together diverse discourses: place, presence and absence, identity, feminism. What motivates that?
LC: Life’s complexity and contradictions. These photos symbolize my struggle to articulate my experience of upheaval and desire to overthrow the past.
RV: Your photographs are challenging. How did you do this?
LC: Quickly! Each photograph was exposed on film. Nothing is digital. I printed them in my darkroom, without manipulation.
RV: Capturing this sense of place, with surprise, makes them transcend. A garment is flying in a particular place and time. Why South Bethlehem?
LC: I grew up here during the decline of the mighty steel industry. My photographs respond to this loss and disorientation. Within a familiar place something is strangely out of place. Things are inside-out.
RV: There is something whimsical here, but far beyond that.
LC: Yes, I urge powerful icons to speak, even argue – the slip as icon of femininity, the steel mill as icon of masculinity, the cross as an icon of belief. St. Michael’s cemetery is iconic in the history of photography, paying tribute to the work of Walker Evans.
RV: Your compositions seem playful, yet are quite difficult to make. There’s no time to arrange things.
LC: True, the composition is both in, and out, of my hands. Everything must click into place at once. It’s about the synchronicity of the present moment – when relationships between things come together, or come apart.
RV: The staging is dynamic, with creative decisions all along.
LC: Movement is key. Tossing the slip into the stage, or frame, creates a disturbance in our field of vision, a different twist. Once the stage and slip are set in motion, I photograph what unfolds. I call this a performance of “hysterical gestures.”
Ricardo Viera is Professor of Art and Director/Chief Curator, Lehigh University Art Galleries. Linda Cummings lives and works in New York and teaches at the International Center of Photography.
Revisiting South Bethlehem: 150 Years of Photography is on view in LUAG’s Dubois Gallery, August 24, 2015 – May 18, 2016.