The work of American photographer Thomas Brummett (b.1955 in Colorado) is akin to a spiritual quest. Brummett uses photography to explore how natural science and physics in particular can shed light on the true nature of the world. He searches for visual manifestations that reveal the complexity of natural systems. The series Light Projections and Infinities shown at the Alfred Ehrhardt Stiftung are visual investigations of the multiplicity of infinite systems he has explored. All of Brummett’s work is drawn from his lifelong series Rethinking the Natural.
In Brummett’s view, light, as the basis of all life and energy, represents “the essence of nature in its purest form.” At the same time, light is also the essence of photography. Brummett’s images from his Light Projections series are literally images of light, which the artist regards as the “perfect visual symbol of the infinite.” For this series—in a camera-less and film-less process—a lens is used to project so-called circles of diffusion (which a lens produces) onto light-sensitive photo paper, thereby creating a representational (physical) depiction of light.
As a skilled ceramist with a profound knowledge of chemical interactions, he then subjects the photographs to a special “entropic” darkroom process that breaks down and rearranges the configuration of silver atoms in the light-sensitive paper, and combines this with solarization (a technique invented by Man Ray and others in the 1920s). Brummett describes this darkroom process as a form of entropy—as constant a force as gravity—since the silver particles in the photographs are physically altered and slowly destroyed. The artist compares this approach to that of Anselm Kiefer, who exposes his works to baths of chemicals and electric current, causing them to quickly age and breakdown. To his knowledge, the Light Projections are unique to the history of photography. They are not considered photograms since no objects were placed on the surface of the paper; light is manipulated solely via the lenses and their optical properties.
Brummett’s Infinities series is based on the Light Projections, which provide a framework for images that are divided between “the celestial” and “the earthbound.” For the celestial images, he starts with Hubble Telescope images of deep space, which offer a view back in time of the light of star systems that are millions of years old, so old that quite a few no longer exist. He then overlays these images of the universe with other motifs he has photographed from nature such as magnolias, snowflakes, or mold grown in his studio.
Spiritually minded and drawn to Far Eastern Taoism and Buddhist art following extensive travels in Asia, Brummett seeks to make the magical universe of the world comprehensible through the process of close observation. His contemplative preoccupation with the phenomena of nature, combined with a photographic and darkroom technique developed and refined over many years, serves to visualize a vital cosmos that defines us. The macro-cosm is mirrored in the microcosm of photographic paper.
“My photographic process is an act of meditation through deep and extended attention and has evolved over time into capturing or rendering different infinite systems that exist right in front of us. I am trying to understand and present the world in its totality. If only we had the means to observe the world as it truly exists, think of how differently we would treat each other and our planet.”
Thomas Brummett was born in Colorado/USA in 1955. After studying ceramics and photography at Colorado State University (BFA, 1979) and Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan (MFA, 1982), he settled as a photographer in Philadelphia. From 1985 to 2015 he was a part time professor for University of Pittsburgh, University of Arts and Temple University in Philadelphia. Raised in an Episcopal Christian family, he was drawn to Far Eastern Taoism and Buddhist art during travels to India and Asia as a young adult. His work is regularly exhibited internationally and features in many prestigious private and public collections worldwide, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and the Philadelphia Museum of Arts. Among numerous awards for his work, he has received the International Photography Award (2004, 2009, and 2012) and the Sony World Photography Award (2014). He lives and works in Philadelphia/USA.
On the occasion of the exhibition is published the brochure Thomas Brummett: Seeking the Infinite, with a text by Christiane Stahl, (Dt./Engl.), 32 pages, 20 ill., 2023, 5,- €.