At a moment in time when everyone is a photographer, vis-à-vis smartphone cameras and smartly curated Instagram accounts, the nature of photography itself has shifted. Quietly tectonic and by and large democratic in its thrust, photography has moved from the darkrooms of yore toward the noisy, selfie-inflicted media we all recognize. What, then, is the purpose of photography as art; what to we photograph and why, what is our taxonomic understanding of the world around us, and what takes visual precedence when everything is present.
Ghosts in the Sunlight: Photographs by Nick Torsell captures quiet, commanding moments which underscore the important role photography can still play. The artist’s first solo gallery exhibit – at Sugar City Art Gallery – presents moments of emptiness drawn from the artist’s trip across the American Southwest. These photographs, taken from a car parked on the side of the road, impart invisible vibrations of potential. They both seek to uncover something, and serve as a testament to moments spent waiting for something new or imagined to occur. The exhibit is curated by Curtis A. Guy, who describes Torsell’s work as “show[ing] the stillness of life around us…coated in a peaceful bright light”.
Indeed, Torsell’s photographs are by and large void of people and bodily presence. They instead serve as a haunting guidepost toward a land of rushing silence; characterized by sun, sand, clouds and the occasional indication that someone was here once, if only for a moment. Torsell’s photographs become fleeting instances, captured, of a fugitive stillness mediated by the absence of human presence as well as the omnipresent eye of the photographer. Working in the long lineage of documentary landscape photographers such as Ansel Adams, Torsell’s photographs operate on a register both documentary and narrative, environmentally hot yet emotionally cold, as well as altogether awe inspiring and chilling.
Ghosts in the Sunlight: Photographs by Nick Torsell runs through August 18 at Sugar City Art Gallery, located at 1239 Niagara Street, Buffalo, New York. The gallery can be accessed by event and appointment, with Gallery Hours every Friday from 5:30 – 7:30pm.