Robynne Limoges, Photographer

American, residing in London, England 

  I am an artist who uses photography in a search for illumination. The world in all its radiance is one of the core concept that interest me greatly, as does the visual playing out of the metaphysical question of just how little light is required to dispel darkness. 

 I am drawn to the enigmatic detail of place, the unresolved narrative, the glimpse of uncertain associations. My approach is one of making different series of suggestions, and through whatever vocabulary I use, whether pure abstraction or recognisable references, I try to find a point at which there is a quietening down, a stillness, in which the image and the viewer might engage in a sotto voce conversation. 

 I shoot quickly, much as a journalistic photographer might, because even though I do not usually photograph the figure or the street, I do not want too much over-thinking to interfere in my process.  I quite often know immediately if an idea and an image will come together as a concept. Because I most often work in abstraction to some degree my titles will act as markers for my viewer, a point of entry into the ideas I am experimenting with. 

 

 INTERVIEW

 

What made you decide to specialise in your particular style of photography?  

I don’t think so much in terms of specialising.  Categorising myself is not so interesting to me. I am very open to what mysterious details, environments, formal connections that are out there that I am fortunate enough to see.  

 If I had a style, I would say that I am drawn to the enigmatic detail of ‘place’, the unresolved narrative, the glimpse of uncertain associations, the figure when it can present something more universal than particular or when its poetry is compelling to me.  

 I like the idea of making suggestions, metaphor. The most exciting moments for me are those when I see something whose meaning and story are unresolved, an image that can disquiet as well as please me with its beauty; an image that can conceal as well as reveal. And the best of all is when an image changes direction entirely, when to the viewer grabs hold of it, and it means to them something completely different that it does to me.  

 In any case, whatever formal vocabulary I use, I am enthralled by the discourse between light and darkness, how little light is actually required to dispel darkness, the idea of that contest.  

 What is your particular philosophy in respect of your photography? 

I can answer best perhaps if I give some background information about me. 

I am an artist photographer currently living in London, American born. I am mid-career, which might or might not be of interest, except for the fact that being older might account for my sight-line being perceived as being at odds with the contemporary zeitgeist. I have been told that by galleries, and at this time I am represented by none. 

 n my view, there is a point in time and a geographic location at which our self-image gels. I was born and spent my early childhood in a tiny town on the expansive prairie of South Dakota. It is relevant only in that I believe it is worthwhile to assess ‘what informs us’ as artists.

When you start your life in such a landscape you learn early about nuance, about the need to quieten down in order to grasp onto partly-told stories. Actual disclosure is rare. Conversation from that part of the world is the sparest of poetry, where the reader is relied upon to exhume from minimal forensics a narrative, a meaning, a leading line. 

 The prairie landscape is one of solitude where small changes weigh greatly. The body runs a racing dialogue between the burden of gravity and its unrelieved horizon and the unattainability of so much atmosphere, such immensity above.  

The feeling of myself as not much more than a soft footprint left on thin topsoil, left in me a need for crowds, a desire to feel crowded. I left for London in my 35th year, hoping a landscape of urban and historical congestion might teach me expansiveness. 

 I also grew up with an understanding of the potency of symbols and the alchemical connection between symbol and meaning. I say this at the outset because a number of my series deal with how symbolic potency, meaning itself, can be corroded, worn away. At that point, the power and vitality of symbolism can simply be extinguished. 

 When did your interest in photography begin? 

The photograph played a huge part in the family and community narrative for me as a child in rural America. I was inspired by dog-eared album pages turned again and again by farmer wives’ hands, or brought from ragged boxes to flick through, randomly. Later, when I began travelling, I was astonished at how often I was granted the privilege by strangers to see pictures of their lives. The physicality of prints, the declared preciousness of studio portraits drew me in, and I have stayed enthralled.  

 But my photography was also formed by the sounds I heard when I read aloud to myself from the printed page. I dreamed of declaring a voice for myself through poetry, which I wrote for many years until it became apparent that I would not find an audience. Poetry, especially haiku, has always been my tutor and will remain so. 

 During six years at University, I studied art history, which informs and instructs me still; literature, creative writing, poetry. I took an introductory photography class. I was a Teaching Associate, later taught museology at a major museum to talented high school students, still later became Director of Programming for a national public radio network, among other careers. After leaving America for London, visa restrictions meant I could not work for the first seven years of my application for the right to remain.  

 As a result I immersed myself in teaching myself photography. I knew then that making images is my native geography. 

 What images by other photographers have inspired you: 

One is Don McCullin’s ‘Shell-shocked US Marine, The Battle of Hue, 1968’. He taught me that portraits should always be about something ‘more’. The second is a film, Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam, because my brother appears in it, still full of his irrepressible joie de vivre. My brother did not return home. The third is an image which I only discovered recently. It is by Keith Carter. The subject is a bald man the back of whose head is lit celestially, seated alone in a small darkened space. He leans forward toward a boxed record player. I do not know the title of this photograph. It is moving, minimal and haunting.  

 These photographs exemplify the sotto voce conversation that I strive to achieve between a viewer and my images. 

 Who do you greatly admire in the photographic arena and in other areas of the arts? 

A few of the many, many photographers are Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, Paul Caponigro, especially his Running White Deer, Dorothea Lange, Michael Kenna, Ralph Gibson, Masao Yamamoto, Keith Carter, Olivier Meriel, Mimmo Jodice, Joseph Koudelka, Debbie Flemming Caffery. Artists include Willem de Kooning, Donald Judd, Arshile Gorky, Milton Avery, Barnett Newman (for his ‘Crucifixion series’), Arshile Gorky Hughie O’Donoghue, Piero della Francesca, Goya. Writers include W. S. Merwin, Lars Gustafsson, J. M. Coetzee, Don DeLillo, Alan Lightman, Walker Percy. Lastly, the character, Eleanor Rigby, who seems to stand constantly at my shoulder. 

 Also, I really cannot adequately express my admiration for all of the tremendously talented, serious, gracious photographers, writers and poets whose work I discovered through Twitter. The exchange of images with all of them has been tremendously invigorating and inspiring. Social media was not a vehicle I had been interested in, but to be part of a certain show, I had to have a Twitter account. What a fantastic experience it has turned out to be.  

 What have been some memorable experiences as far as your photographic work is concerned? 

It was an astounding experience to go to Amsterdam’s Centrum voor Fotografie to ask the Director for an exhibition. It was a cold call. He gave me a one-person show, Small Statements of Light, which took place in 1997. I will never forget his generosity. 

 Being asked by Hahnemühle Fine Art UK if they could print my triptych, Foundation Stones, The Blue Mosque, Istanbul, and show it as a large, focal point in a major trade show was an incredible endorsement. Afterwards it became part of their collection. They supported me again with a newsletter feature and, additionally, for a show in London in March 2017. I remain immensely grateful. 

 Although galleries have thus far not been ready to show my work, I have had great good fortune to receive amazing support from individuals and organisations. I am not a particularly social person, so I must say that these people have made all the difference.  

 Just a few are: FolioLink, my website team; C4E Call for Entries (Elizabeth Manegold); the original group at Nik; the prestigious American organisation, Rfotofolio, who graciously chose my portfolio, Black Haiku: Poems for Dark Times as one of their ten portfolios of 2017; Mark Goldthorpe, editor of ClimateCultures, who invited me to contribute to the conversation among members of many disciplines on the climate and its future; JoAnn Locktov, editor of Dream of Venice in Black and White, who chose two of my images to be included and who has promoted me at every opportunity; Darius Adamek, master printer and curator of Gallery 1885; Sascha Windolph, Founder of Kiosk of Democracy, Hamburg, who invited me to exhibit on kioskderdemokratie.blogspot.com; and curator Mona Youssef. I am especially grateful to Xavier Daniel, who invited me to be part of this exciting international endeavour, The 3NinesArts. 

 Do you consider freedom of expression in art a fundamental right of creators and why? Do you think that creativity should be a priority of educational systems and how would you encourage it? What role should creativity play in society? 

I have grouped those questions together as it is easier for me to discuss them that way.  I do believe in freedom of expression. It is part of my personal psyche and my country’s constitution. This will be controversial, but I have experienced a change in interest level in the female nude. The nude has always been the mainstay of fine art photography and I loved it as all image makers have done. However, the current societal atmosphere has become so toxic with misogyny, abuse, exploitation and dark interpretations of the nude that my love for the nude figure in photography is now conditional. 

Not only educational systems need to focus on creativity as part of a standard, classic arts and humanities curriculum, but all sectors of business should also. Creativity and its visual components should be taught in all disciplines, not just visual-related subjects. We are in such dire need of problem-solvers, of seriously-out-of-the-box thinkers, of people who believe in grace and elegance and beauty of expression, thought and gesture that we cannot go on relegating artistic creativity to a tiny, underfunded corner of the academic environment.  Artistic creativity should be at the forefront in the same way as information technology and AI are now. I only know Twitter as a photography and fine art platform and see its positive contribution through that lens, but others use it for other things. Social media is both an illuminator and an obscurant, deeply dark vehicle. I do not believe it is, in general, an inherently positive or highly creative force at this juncture. 

 Developing one’s way of seeing the world, shaping one’s sight-line through a lens, is not so different from the hard and patient work that goes into reflective considerations about self, justice, right and wrong, evil and light, one’s responsibility to the smaller and larger community, one’s ability to think large, to stay and want to remain engaged.   

 We are going to require so much more creativity than ever, ever imagined just to keep this planet, the animal, plant and human species alive. Creativity is the only phenomenon that will save us. 

 Would you kindly submit up to four of your own favourite photographs and describe why you particularly like them. 

If I may, could I describe four series that I hold particularly dear?  

 1Black Haiku: Poems for Dark Times are visual poems that reflect my obsession with the emotional and enigmatic nature of light and the dialogue I witness as light grapples with darkness in a metaphorical play for dominance. The mysteriousness of the natural world is what I have sought to celebrate: the power of nature to illuminate a path. The portfolio represents for me the enduring power of all those waiting, gesturing, beating hearts of places that I have encountered and captured during my time as a photographer. 

As the series evolved I kept foremost in my mind the question of how could I best translate the natural world’s organic profusion into minimal, yet emotional, images. So I turned to the Haiku poetic form as my tutor. Haiku does not rhyme. It does not conclude. But it does distill. It does invite us to contemplate the radiance that still abounds.

©Robynne Limoges 48

 

 

2 The History of History. This series does not display the devastation of crime and chaos. banality rasping against barbarity in the same way that a war correspondent’s imagery does, but for me the faces and figures in stone, their impact on me is as visceral and as immediate as flesh. I believe each image’s life twin could be found in war torn environments in every corner of the world. The wounds and scars revealed through HIE infrared film are not of art history, nor of ancient history. They are intimate portraits of very specific individuals in different states of catastrophe. 

©Robynne Limoges 47

 

 3 Rock Pools in the Desert. The images in this large series are all taken in one very confined space, of one single object, photographed obsessively at different times of day, at differing angles, in different swathes of natural light. They are abstract, beautiful, in colour, and for me stand as a metaphor for the dire water crisis we face and will lose if climate change is not curtailed. 

©Robynne Limoges 46

 

 4 How Forgetting Begins . From numbers of images taken over the years, photographing one site, I have distilled my interpretations into a series of six in-camera double exposures. The series is about the disconnection of intent and original symbolism and subsequently about the corrosion of meaning. Its subject is a heartbreaking example of the wearing away of symbolic potency; the power of its original symbolism, crippled. For me, this series is a portrait of that tragedy.

©Robynne Limoges 45

 

  Thank you very much for interviewing me. I hope my responses to some of your questions will be useful. 

 

Robynne Limoges 

27 October 2018 

for The 3NinesArts 

 

 

 ROBYNNE LIMOGES GALLERY

 

 



  www.RobynneLimoges.com 


  Curriculum Vitae 

 Portfolio Award

My portfolio,Black Haiku: Poems for Dark Times, was selected by the Rfotofolio, an esteemed American fine art photographic organisation, as one of their ten 2017 Rfotofolio Selections. My triptych, , was chosen for the banner image.Dialogue has been chosen for the Depth of Field exhibition at the Center for Photographic Art, 14 April through 20 May 2018, in Carmel-on-the-Sea, California. An exhibition catalogue is available for purchase through Rfotofolio. 

 Commissions

Selected by Hahnemühle Fine Art UK to exhibit a photographic triptych, The Foundation Stones, Blue Mosque, Istanbul, as the focal point of their convention display at The Photography Show 2015, Birmingham International Exhibition Centre, England. The triptych subsequently became part of the Hahnemühle art collection. 

 I have had work commissioned by private individuals in the USA, in London and in Brazil. 

 2019 Florence Photographic Biennale 

I have been invited by a member of the Selection Committee to exhibit at the 2019 Florence Photographic Biennale. 

Solo Exhibitions< 

London, Gallery 1885 at The Camera Club (established in 1885 the Club is one of the oldest and most distinguished in the world) 5 February through 16 February 2018 

USA, Minneapolis/St Paul, Raymond Avenue Gallery, Fire and Light: The History of History, 20 February through 27 March, 2015 

Amsterdam, Centrum voor Fotographie (Founder and Director: Bob van den Berg),Small Statements of Light 

London, 54 The Gallery, Mayfair, Robynne Limoges Photographs 

London, The Freud Gallery, Covent Garden,Robynne Limoges Photographs 

London, The Milton Gallery, Barnes,Robynne Limoges Photographs 


Group Exhibitions 

Praxis Gallery, Minneapolis, MN, USA, June 2018 - The Abstract Image 

Praxis Gallery August 2018 -The Found Object 

London, Gallery 1885, Summer Exhibition 

The Lumen Gallery, London, 2018

Black Haiku: Poems for Dark Times and The History of History, The Other Art Fair (juried by art curators), Victoria House, London, 30 March-2 April 2017, I was supported by Hahnemühle Fine Art U 

The Color of Light, Juried by Arthur Meyerson, PhotoPlace, Vermont, USA, 2017 

Trees, Juried by Michael Kenna, A. Smith Gallery, Texas, USA, 2016  

international Garden Photographer of the Year, The Nash Pavilion, Royal Botanical Gardens of Kew 

2015: Collection 8, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London: Awarded Finalist in three categories: Portfolio Competition, Single Image Competition and Macro Competition  

2014: Collection 7, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London: Awarded: Finalist and Highly Commended 

Victoria and Albert Museum (juried show), London  

Orleans House Gallery, Richmond-upon-Thames, London 

Commissioned documentary exhibition, Brentford, London  

Commissioned Television Stills Photography 

BBC Television Production, Exit, directed by Prix Italia winner Clara van Gool  

Commissioned Feature Films Stills Photography 

Butterfly Skin, directed by Michael Winterbottom, BAFTA winner and three times Palme d'Or nominee (starring Amanda Plummer and Saskia Reeves); premiered at the Berlin Film Festival 1995  

Madagascar Skin, directed by Chris Newby (starring Bernard Hill and John Hannah); premiered at La Semaine de la Critique at the Cannes Festival 1995. Newby won the Director's Week Award at Fantasporto 1996. 

Artist-in-Residence 

 

Internet featured photographer 

Two of my series, Rock Pools in the Desert (July 2018) and Black Haiku: Poems for Dark Times (March 2018) were selected by editor Mark Goldthorpe for Climate Cultures: Anthropological Perspectives on Climate Change, which explores cultural responses to environmental change. 

My series, Manhattan: Four Twelve: The Opera Singer was requested by the Kiosk der Demokratie blog, Hamburg, Germany: www.kioskderdemokratie.blogspot.comwww.facebook.com/kioskofdemocracy 

 A blog on the series Black Haiku: Poems for Dark Times was written by Dr James M McArdle, Retired Associate Professor, Deakin University, School of Communication and Creative Arts, Australia, to coincide with the Depth of Field exhibition in Carmel-on-the-Sea, California, April 2018. 

C4E Call for Entries - Featured Photographer 

Hahnemuhle Newsletter - Featured Photographer 

Foliolink Newsletter and Blog - Featured Photographer 

Saatchi On-Line - Critics Choice 

World Photography Network Newsletter Feature - Ophelia at the Hilton, and Sightline 

TBM Network - Honorable Mention, The Fortune Teller, Krakow 

TBM Newsletter - Interview and photographs 

Nik Software - Featured Photographer 

 Books - Monographs

SOTTO VOCE

ISBN: 978-0-9565386-0-4, 80 black and white photographs, 30 x 30 cm hardcover with jacket. SOTTO VOCE is a visual meditation on the age-old questions of how much light is required to dispel darkness and just how is it to be found - this fragment of light - when surrounded by so much darkness? Shot in different locations around the world, the images share the same ideas, and part of what they express is a particular reverence for the quiet voice.