Stephen Houseknecht

Stephen Houseknecht

Artist’s Statement The ongoing Bomber Diptych Series, starting in 1983, addresses the perception of visual perception. The diptych photographs are meant to be viewed as a single image; there is no left or right photograph but the sum of the parts looking from the center of the image outward. This includes the frame numbers and 35mm sprocket holes. My work has always explored metaphor, contemporary myth and how descriptive language of images changes as time passes. In the Diptychs, there is also a stereopticon sense to how the left and right of each image work together. The photographs are pre-visualized. There is no digital cutting, pasting or darkroom manipulation. The photographs are manipulated as they are being created at the instant of exposure. I am interested in most areas of photographic vision and their respective histories. I have never treated making a photograph as having any truth-bearing capability about the subject matter. I see the photograph as a visual metaphor, a recognition of sources, to be manufactured or fabricated. To heighten the viewer’s suspension of disbelief, I use truthful trappings to suggest a visual reality that, in fact does not exist, either in the photographic work or in the common visual culture. I create a tension between a photograph as truth and the inherent skepticism concerning manipulation masquerading as truth. The work derives from an oral and visual tradition with which I have grown up. A family historical thread also runs through the work. Both of my paternal great-grandparents were professional photographers working from the early 1880’s on, my great-grandmother one of the earliest full-time professional woman photographers in New York State, and my paternal grandmother was a storyteller. My late father was a WWII combat B17 pilot with the Eight Air Force flying out of England over Europe during the Second World War. My photographs work with a fictive illusion of his and other aircrew members’ experiences and my responses. Since 1978 my work has utilized the WWII B17 Flying Fortress when I first started building model airplanes in fabricated photographs. In 1987 I was able to start using a real B17 Flying Fortress in the images (from 1978 until 1987 I was building and using model airplanes and air show appearances of real B17’s) that became part of an aviation museum located in Geneseo, NY. My work has always questioned the assumed reality or truth-bearing properties of photography and having unlimited access to the B17 now made it able for me to much more easily continue making directed/ fabricated airplane images. I also continued to use photographs as still films where there is layered narrative, causing the photograph to have its own sense of action. I had first flown in, and photographed from a B17 in 1981, and continued to be able to get up in B17’s on a semi-regular basis. All of my early flight time occurred before the FAA in 1995 allowed the sale of rides on WWII aircraft that presents a very unique view of WWII aviation icons.


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