I photograph the stillness of empty places--deserted beaches, barren deserts, vine encrusted factories. Even when I focus my camera of scenes that are full of life, such as blazing autumn forests or gossamer flowers, I try to abstract the subject matter so that it retreats into the quiescence of abstract form and texture. I photograph the same subject repeatedly, even obsessively. Slowly, the act of continually re-photographing a scene helps crystallize a mental image that eventually supplants the psychological chatter of descriptors (“dynamic,” “textural,” “luminous”) which inevitably fail to do justice to any image. I strive to let my head be as empty of words as my images are of people.This momentary triumph of images over words is necessitated by the other half of my mental life. By training I am, or am on my way to becoming, an historian of contemporary art. Art history and art criticism operate through words, words that attempt to analyze, explain and ultimately subdue an image (or a sculpture, installation or performance). The image is conscripted back into a linguistic system. The mental quietude of my photographic practice helps me to rebalance this equation.
Mike Maizels is an art history PhD student and photographer living in Charlottesville, Virginia. After studying photography and philosophy of mind at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, he received an MA in art history from the University of Chicago Program in the Humanities. He is currently working with Howard Singerman on his PhD at the University of Virginia. His dissertation will focus on the questions of subjectivity and spectatorship raised by new media art, particularly large-scale installations.