When Alfred Stieglitz pointed his camera skyward in 1922, and began photographing clouds, he was attempting something that had arguably never been done before: purely abstract photography. Void of any directional or historical reference points except for the printing technology used at the time, Stieglitz created images that could have been taken anywhere, anytime, and by anyone using a subject available to everyone – clouds. When printed, these photographs could be, and often were, displayed in any orientation. Purposefully done, this forced viewers to digest photographs of what they knew to be clouds as abstract forms instead. Stieglitz believed that the photographs would function evocatively, like music, and because of the lack of reference points, the viewer would have to think more about how the photograph made them feel rather than what the photograph was depicting.

Fast forward 100 years and I found myself wanting something similar to what Stieglitz was looking for when he set out to produce the images that became the Equivalents series. My grandmother Florence Riso-Forte was a painter who trained at the Art Students League in New York and as I grew up, I would lose myself in her larger-than-life abstracts. I would find myself mesmerized in front of the rolling and blending colors that filled her walls. Her paintings told stories and with each, a different feeling came out from within. I had been photographing for almost a decade when this idea came to me. I had admired Stieglitz’s work while in school. In his cloud photographs, I saw a connection to my grandmother’s paintings. As an homage to Stieglitz and my grandmother, I set out on my own journey towards abstract photography. Unlike Stieglitz who looked to the sky and photographed clouds everywhere, I pointed my camera to the ground in one of my grandmother’s favorite places, coastal Maine.

The drowned coast of what we now know as Maine has undergone drastic changes over the last 500 million years. Ebbing and flowing with the ocean by its side, and pushed by the geological movements of the earth, differential erosion has shaped the bedrock of this 2500-mile coastline. “Weathered” explores the erosion of the bedrock of Maine as a metaphor for the human experience and the emotions that come along life’s journey. As the ocean has scraped and morphed and scarred the coastline, time and life experiences mold and change and shape us into the people we look at in the mirror. Those folds and wrinkles. Perhaps formed by years of laughter or from a furrowed brow behind a desk working diligently towards a reachable goal. That scar. Maybe a happy story or a sad one. Many of the changes we go through in life happen slowly. They are not noticeable to the naked eye. The changes in our lives come from creating routines that carve channels into our days for us to follow. It is only when we pause for a moment, step back, and recognize what we have gone through or when someone points them out to us that we may recognize those changes. The bedrock that forms the coast of Maine has experienced volcanoes, oceanic openings and closings, erosion of mountains, and has been changed many times by heat and pressure. The folds, cracks, striations of color, and other irregularities are mother nature’s wrinkles, scars, and birthmarks. As time takes its toll on both of us, more and more is revealed to the world. It’s inevitable. Time leaves us all weathered.

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