Monday, April 2, 2012

Stephen Chalmers: Dump Sites

     Photographer Stephen Chalmers came to Point Park University last Friday for our Speaking Light series.  Unfortunately, I couldn't make it to the event, but I had read about him and his work "Dump Sites" prior to the lecture.  Chalmers photographs seemingly normal landscapes that one would not really think twice about when gazing at the trees, tall grass, etc.  The only real physical difference between a peaceful landscape and Chalmers' collection of hidden areas is the fact that the latter of the two focuses on the grim side of the world.  Stephen photographs sites where serial killers dumped bodies (or parts of them) in the past - something one may not know while wandering through the mystical scenes to get a breath of fresh air.
     I think Chalmers' photographs really have an interesting vision of death and secrets hidden by life and beauty. He chose to title the photographs as the names of the victims who were placed within the nature scenes.  At first, one's mind is bound to considering the worry that these beautiful landscapes are cemeteries and, further, wonder what other places - that may have been personally visited - have been turned into grave sites without anyone's knowledge of it aside from the murderer.  But, ultimately, the photographs get the viewer to fade out the visual of a calming environment and to consider the lives of those victims instead.  This collection curiously - and rather dangerously - touches upon what death physically is.  The bodies of victims, whether mutilated or in one piece, are abandoned in a restful, unmarked place and lost forever.  Yet, when buried properly in a marked cemetery, people feel as though death's victims are still there & go to visit them, in an attempt to reconnect with the lives that left.  The series shows that both scenarios bring around the same result - the physical body is eventually lost to the Earth.  We'll never be ready to let go of these lives, but in both places one can stare at the world and wonder, speak, and come to a greater spiritual awareness.

"Dump Site" series:

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