Artist Statement: Totems

In 2008, I visited Alert Bay, British Columbia, a major center of Totem Pole building, to do research for this series.

After working for 15+ years in both single image photography and in Super 8 film, I visited and was profoundly inspired by the beauty and power of the Totem Poles of the first peoples of the Pacific Northwest coast.

The poles inspired me to begin arranging my photographic images in a stacked manner to allude to a story or theme. Some use symbols or archetypes. The arrangement is intuitive, from my subconscious, like the individual images themselves. Many Totem Poles refer to transformation and all have correspondences between images. I similarly share correspondences in works in the Totem series works and often hint at transformations in many of the works. Most works have a narrative.

While the works in the series often have a narrative to me, I keep the titles short so that the works are open to a viewer’s own interpretation. Similarly, a Totem Pole’s narrative is open to interpretation even if its creator had a specific narrative in mind when designing/carving/painting the Pole. The images comprising the works in the series are primarily from the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. and Canada, with a few from New York, Hawaii, and California.