Untitled, 2010 by Chuck Koosmann
I have had awful, dismal eyesight since I was seven years old. For this reason, the images from Chuck Koosmann's submission seem very familiar to me: his blurry, impressionistic and rather painterly photographs from a series titled Almost Real... resemble quite precisely my own bewildering, vulnerable visual experience of the world on the (very, very, very rare) occasions that I find myself without a visual aid.
This association is obviously very specific to me (and potentially, I suppose, to the other, unlucky, near-blind folks out there). An individual response to these images is, in part, Koosmann's intention in this series. He writes of his work:
Recently, I have been working to find new ways to make images that are less objective, less literal, images that open themselves to interpretation, imagination and memory, where the viewer plays a role in creating what is to be known.
However, there is more to these photographs. While they do remain open to such personal readings, they simultaneously hint at something that both specifically concerns Koosmann himself, and to which virtually anyone can relate: the limitations, the incompleteness and the inaccuracy of memory. Koosmann continues in his statement:
As I get older I'm finding that memory is not a constant. It is a process, an exercise, an ever-changing creation and re-creation of what we think we know. I am not at a place where memory is a problem now, but as I age I can imagine that it may become an issue. This project helps me to see how those who struggle with memory may feel and cope, and what it may mean to me.
, 2010 by Chuck Koosmann
The viewer is not given much concrete visual information to work with in Almost Real...;we are left with no option but to project, to infer and to flesh these pictures out ourselves. I feel like I can—with some degree of confidence—guess at what these out-of-focus and often-gorgeous images depict: one seems to be the bottom edge of a set of blinds against a hardwood floor, (or maybe the slats of the railing surrounding a deck) while another hints at a domestic interior at dusk. The images are just barely representational, although Koosmann's three photographs with human figures are slightly easier to make out: one is almost definitely a seated female nude; one shows several figures against a shoreline in gray, gloomy weather, and the final is of a man in a suit, outdoors on a sunny day. His hand is at his neck; it looks as though he could be loosening his tie at the end of a long workday.
Untitled, 2010 by Chuck Koosmann
Still, I will never be certain if my interpretations are correct. This lack of clarity is enforced by the fact that each photo is "untitled," and while this is certainly not unusual in art, in this case such vagueness seems intentional, and very much in keeping with Koosmann's project.
Attempting to interpret and define these images is in this way akin to the act of remembering, and resembles trying to spontaneously picture the face of someone you haven't seen in some time. The works in this series turn the traditional idea of the photograph as a record or an aid for recollection on its head, acting as a visual equivalent to memory. The picture is full of blurry edges and fuzzy details, ultimately becoming a a hazy outline of something that we can never be quite sure of.
As viewers, we grasp at clues as to what and whom these photographs represent, just as we grasp to recall events, people, or feelings we've encountered or experienced, which escape us almost as quickly as they appear. In both, there is a distinct, inescapable component of invention. Koosmann's images are hugely evocative and at the same time quite frustrating: they can inspire very personal associations and emotions, while simultaneously mirroring and highlighting just how subjective, how unreliable, how mercurial our memories in fact are.
More of Koosmann's work (although no images from the Almost Real... series) can be viewed on his website.