Inside this issue
Eyes Make the Horizon
An immaterial conception of place
Michael Zuhorski was born in 1992 in Detroit, and was raised there in the suburbs. He is currently based in Marquette, Michigan. In 2015 he graduated from the College for Creative Studies with a BFA in photography. His work has been published internationally and exhibited widely in group shows, as well as in several solo shows in the Midwestern United States.
In November 2015, I moved to Marquette, Michigan, on the south shore of Lake Superior. I did this with the intention of creating a body of photographs as a response to my sustained presence in the Northern Great Lakes. This work is the result.
Writing about the intention behind this work is difficult for me. The exact meaning behind it has always been elusive. Although, my understanding of this work as lending shape and colour to an emotional state has been consistent. To give a parallel, before I moved, I spent a notable amount of time looking at Helen Frankenthaler’s The Bay, at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Looking at it feels synonymous with dwelling in it. It evokes qualities of place that are vivid, yet intangible. Such an immaterial conception of place is what I set out to describe in these photographs.
Being raised in the Detroit suburbs, the homogeneity of my surroundings put me at odds with them. A week spent each year upstate with my family on the shore of Lake Huron felt different than this. The Northern Great Lakes are where I first consciously felt unopposed to my surroundings. Since childhood I have maintained an emotionally vivid relationship with this region. Beyond this, I have never traveled much, adding to the mental stature this region occupies for me.
From the beginning of this work’s development I was fixated upon portraying the psychological timbre of my experience of this place. Describing the quality of this experience of place is difficult with words. I have found photography to be most effective in evoking such qualities. Its ability to make tangible the content of vision, and impose stillness upon it, allows it to recontextualize experience in a way idiosyncratic to the medium.
Photographing in this region throughout my life has had a pronounced effect upon my practice. Much of the landscape here reveals itself gradually. The most dramatic features are the surrounding Great Lakes horizon-lines and the near-constant presence of water. In this work, water’s amorphousness appeals symbolically to the subconscious, to something palpably present, but ungraspable. In water’s visual elasticity I have found a way to address intangibility. .
Trees make open spaces a rarity and dominate the mostly flat topography. With consistently short line of sight, looking near, often at small things has become essential to my way of seeing. From this I have developed a penchant for photographing the minutiae and ephemera of my surroundings. If not for photographically seeking them out, I would likely be only peripherally conscious of such things. This series is built upon taking such content, normally resigned to the corners of experience, and elevating it to the central point of focus. In experience, such content is least likely to be singled out, objectified; it is likely to remain elusive.
Idealism toward the natural environment of this region is very much present in my understanding of it. After moving to the shore of Lake Superior, prolonged exposure to the reality of human encroachment upon this environment more thoroughly settled into my consciousness. The creation of this work has served as catharsis for this tension between idealism and undesirable reality. This understanding has manifested itself in these photographs as dream-like ominousness and an obscuring of the line between the natural and the man-made.
Over the course of creating this work, a dialogue has developed between the landscape and myself. The patterns that run throughout these photographs have become engrained in the way I visually process my surroundings. As a result, the landscape depicted has a through-flowing rhythm all its own. It feels to me like a self-contained place.