Monday, October 22

Eric Staller and Early Inspiration

I don't remember exactly how old I was when I first saw photos from Eric Staller, but I remember that they got my mind racing. It took me at least a decade to realize how much I'd learned from that brief experience with his work, but it stuck with me.

Staller's work makes use of how film handles light, letting it propagate over long periods of time while he moves through the view using light to imprint on the film. The above image, Poseidon, is one of my favorites. This image is from 1979 and is a pure image: Staller captured exactly what appeared in film here. The one below, I love as well:

I've done a lot of work with long-exposure and night photography, but to this day none of it is what Staller tried to do. I take pictures of events as they occur, capturing the light that is involved in the scene. Staller would do this, but then add his own light through a variety of methods. This was truly transformational. Not only did he do what many of us know how to do: capture light over a period of time, but he used that technique to build his own light shows, going beyond the naturally occurring events and moving into something else entirely.

When I rediscovered his work a few months ago (it's amazing what you can find on the internet), I learned that his work encompassed arenas considerably beyond that of photography. His designs include gigantic interactive sculptures and what he calls "Urban UFOs." Those UFO's are light sculptures, such as Roly-Poly, a globe with constantly moving lights which surround the rider of a personal vehicle of some sort or Bubbleheads, which you sort of have to see to understand.

There's something heady about rediscovering an artist you'd seen decades before, not even having remembered his name but knowing that, to some small degree, he's one of your original creative inspirations.

What I especially appreciate is refinding this artist years later and discovering that he's not only still doing work, but he's doing work that's politically progressive and anti-establishment as ever and hasn't turned out to be some sort of enormous let down. His work continues to make social commentary and is very strongly anti-war and pro-human. It's something I'm glad to see.

Check out either of his websites. is an online gallery. Out of My Mind is his web storefront, where there are all sorts of weird and wonderful things, including his book, which gives a lot of detail on his techniques and history as an artist.

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