Carl Chiarenza, whose extraordinary career as a photographer, writer, and teacher now spans five decades, remains a name relatively unknown among the pantheon of American masters. His photographs, luminous, dark, coruscated with deep shadows, and alive with the play of light, are challenging and abstract, studies of blacks and whites in the ancient and honorable tradition of chiaroscuro. His intention is to push the photograph beyond the boundaries of the “real,” to investigate the realms of imagination where space and surface intertwine and where the perception of “real” is transformed into a wholly visual event.
This approach flies against tradition and, to a degree, the conventions of the art. But in his own mind, Chiarenza is clear about his motivation: “I want the viewer of my work to sense the power, to feel the presence of the unknown. All photographs share this life force, this force of their own individuality. Somewhere between the making and the viewing of the picture, we experience this force, though our experience remains forever beyond satisfactory explanation.”
In the pages of this small-format book, we see displayed the fruits of an entire career, and viewers can judge this “life force” for themselves. Here is a testament to an artist of extraordinary power, intelligence, and imagination who asks that you, the viewer, “move, moment to moment, from within the accessible and familiar to the realm of the unknown.” In the hands and through the eyes and lens of this modern master, it undertakes a journey well worth following.