Are there differences in the way practitioners of art and those of medicine see the world? How we are trained really does influence what we look for, and in turn, what we see around us. Geoffrey Ansel Agrons, a radiologist who is also a black and white photographer and a member of InLiquid, has this view about the medical perspective: “As a diagnostic radiologist, I spent my workdays interpreting ‘photographs’ of the human interior. Each study was approached as a puzzle with a potential solution, and each analysis was a quest for certainty.” As a fellow physician, I know that the practice of medicine is all about logic, evidence-based algorithms, statistical findings, laboratory results, imaging, physical examinations, to name just a few. We look in order to arrive at an answer. The emotions evoked by looking take a distant backseat to obtaining that holy grail, the answer. No wonder emotions are generally shunned; it’s no secret that the “answer,” or diagnosis, is needed in order to save lives. While there is of course some “art” to the practice of medicine, as exemplified by intuition and establishment of a trusting doctor-patient relationship, medicine is mostly a left-brain function. Uncertainty, haziness, dreaminess, imagination, excessive emotion, and blurry boundaries between one set of concepts and another are antithetical to the rationality and rigid thought required to make a diagnosis and provide evidence-based treatments. We leave the true creativity to artists.

And yet, medical training, with its hyper focus on rationality and logic sometimes forces us to gravitate to the spiritual and imaginative. It can ironically make us uniquely attuned to those unanswerable questions, to concepts that are intangible and based solely on sensation and spirit, rather than fact. As Agron adds: “I grew interested in a different relationship with photography, one that separated an immediate emotional response from vigilant interpretation…I found respite in feeling rather than thinking.” Experiencing the world through emotion can be very freeing after a lifetime of logic and analytical thought. Perhaps this attraction to transcendence, to creative expression and emotional resonance, is made all the more powerful by physicians’ front row seats to suffering, pain, loss, and death. Of course, doctors aren’t the only ones dealing with pain and suffering, but we are exposed to it daily through our patients. We can choose to address suffering solely through logic (that is, finding the “answer” and thereby provide solace through medical intervention) with a sprinkling of compassion, but we can also dip a toe into the spiritual realm. Capturing beauty and creativity alongside suffering brings them in stark relief of each other. There is a shallow gorge between them, one which can be traversed with appropriate crampons, ropes and most of all mental fortitude. It’s almost like traveling in indeterminate spaces, between one world and another, between left brain and right brain functions, between thinking and feeling. It’s akin to exploring transitional, liminal spaces, that space between the familiar and the unknown, or even between concepts, or between the thought processes of art and medicine.

Prologue
Geoffrey Ansel Agrons

Agron’s stunning black and white photographs, so different from radiology images which require studied scrutiny to arrive at a medical conclusion, elicit a different type of looking. These scenes are captured through a right-brained visual field and camera lens. As such, they call on us to look with a wide-open mind, suspending logic and rationality. The photos seem to capture a spiritual, ethereal world, one which may exist in a dream. Prologue conveys partially submerged piers against a swath of pristine water behind it. It portrays the meandering border between man-made structures and the expanse of the ocean, as if questioning whether we can turn back once we’ve broached the wilderness. The piers are half submerged, as if they’ve weathered many storms, yet still make their mark in the water. It seems to pose the question of whether that wilderness will ever be truly wild again. As such, it seems to elicit a sense of loss, of sadness. Those piers no longer serve a purpose yet still mar and deface the landscape, like some kind of oil-based graffiti sprayed on the surface of the water.

Exiled from Our Past
Geoffrey Ansel Agrons

Exiled from Our Past shows a silken, ethereal curtain or ribbon demarcating a dense forest, conveying a dreamy, otherworldly landscape. It’s as if we are told we don’t belong there, we cannot get in. It speaks to being closed off from spirit and nature. It again depicts a boundary between human interference and the wild, or perhaps given its title, between past and future. It captures the feeling of exclusion, of observing beauty from a distance, of nature becoming somehow untouchable, as if we are standing in that transitional zone between logical thought and the free spirit of the natural world. Or perhaps we are trapped between art and medicine, between thinking and emotion; we are in that liminal space, between what we know and what is unknown, between our past and the unknown future. On the other hand, maybe it’s not exactly being trapped between these two divergent worlds that’s at issue but it’s about having the uncommon ability to creatively embrace both worlds. And Agrons’ thought provoking photographs certainly show us that thinking and feeling, or logic and emotion, can peacefully coexist; it’s just a matter of how we choose to look.

Geoffrey Ansel Agrons is a Philadelphia based artist who graduated from the Richard Stockton State College in Pomona, New Jersey and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Medical School in Newark, New Jersey. His photographs have been exhibited in multiple venues throughout the country as well as Tokyo since 2008, and have been included in several publications. His work is in the permanent collection at The Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado and The Witcliff Collections at Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.



AGR01391 19359 juror

The Juror’s Award goes to Geoffrey Agrons for Hospice (The Eastern Light), a tender and evocative image of an ailing woman, ostensibly gazing at trees through her windows. Offered with sensitivity and exquisite tonality, the photograph inspired musings of her momentary respite from confinement, her wandering mind of memories, and hopes for the grace she may have found there.

-Excerpted from the Juror's Statement by Wendi Schneider for the exhibition "Trees" at PhotoPlace Gallery, Middlebury, VT, April 2020


The Myth of Sisyphus (Because This is Where You Are) © Geoffrey Agrons

The Myth of Sisyphus (Because This is Where You Are) © Geoffrey Agrons

Big Big Love © Geoffrey Agrons

Big Big Love © Geoffrey Agrons

The variety of subject and form in the show is notable. I admit to an unabashed love of tintypes (and there are lovely ones in this exhibition), and I have a inexplicable soft spot for printing on organic material such as leaves. Nonetheless, I left this show most impressed by the exquisite and luminous printing of two artists: Fritz Liedtke and Geoffrey Agrons. Agrons’ palladium prints glow and draw your attention from across the room. His two images in the show, “The Myth of Sisyphus (Because This is Where You Are)” and “Big Big Love” I leaned into, stepped away from, then leaned into again to try to immerse myself in them. I didn’t simply feel “drawn” to the images. I wanted to go into them, to experience them and all of their strange light.

-Excerpted from a review of  Alternative Process at Soho Photo bRoger Thompson, professor at Stony Brook University and the Senior Editor of Don’t Take Pictures.



Ruins Jumieges, Normandy
Juror's Choice Award
Far Away Places
Darkroom Gallery
Essex Junction, VT

I kept in mind the call for entries: "From the far corners of your backyard to the far away country it takes weeks to traverse to, we want to see where you end up when you go 'far away'."  As I was selecting the winners, I enjoyed going around the world with the 114 photographers who submitted 632 images. Yet, some of the best work was not made in a far away, foreign land either, reminding us that the idea of far away is as much about a mental or emotional journey as it is a physical one.  The best images were technically flawless and perfectly composed.  They had one or more added elements, be it an especially dramatic time of day, an unusual angle, an experiment with time or with focus, for example.  Some, but not all then had an element of post production that supported the narrative in the image, be that making the image B + W or pinhole or panorama, etc.  These added elements ALWAYS supported the story in the photograph and never looked like they were thrown in to improve an otherwise mediocre image. 

The Juror's Choice goes to "Ruins Jumieges, Normandy".  This has all the elements I noted above.  The light is magical, the composition dynamic, the birds flying through make it a moment, the choice of black and white adds to the drama and the square format keeps our attention within the image unlike a rectangular image, which tends to move the viewer through the image.

-David H. Wells

 
 

Low Hanging Fruit

Still Life: The Art of Arrangement

The Kiernan Gallery

Lexington, VA

...the image Low Hanging Fruit was beautifully done and evokes a touch of Mapplethorpe.

-Jason Landry

 

 

 

Foret (Not My Father's Eyes)
Normandy, 2010 

Brought up in New Jersey, and now living in San Francisco, it is no surprise that much of Geoffrey’s photography centres on coastal and seaside locations. There is something dramatic and engaging in Geoffrey’s works which tell a photographic narrative - a flash of lightning above the fairground ride; fireworks before they settle; a shadowy, decaying room – they are a moment of motion captured in a single frame.

 

Geoffrey’s exploration into ‘the uneasy coexistence between human populations and the natural world’ reflects a total juxtaposition between that which is manmade (fairground rides, houses, fireworks, wooden structures) and that which is nature (the sea, sky and trees). This juxtaposition is most clearly shown in the firework and fairground images. The latter projects a battle between swings and storm, as they impose on, and clash with each other till the better half wins. The firework image also has an air of imposition as a firework explodes over the calm, natural landscape. Geoffrey is neither condemning, nor endorsing the natural or synthetic. He simply takes an observer’s perspective, combining the two in a stylised, dramatic aesthetic.


-Maxine Harris

Fussed Magazine

 

 One cannot help but to stare into those photos of gnarled trees and disappearing horizons, and get lost in the myriad of soft grays and the ethereal beauty of it all. ...In his photos there is always the sense that a single person may have once inhabited that space but has since moved on leaving the viewer with questions of their existence.

 
-Benjamin Mouch

 

 
 

 


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