The work of Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison is for me, the essence of dream photography in contemporary fine arts. Made to look old and archival with the use of black and white or warm tone printing, their photos evoke the feeling of a lost age (a purposeful move, I suspect, to help convey a constant theme of loss, pain, and environmental degradation that in present in most of their work). This black and white/warm tone printing also destabilizes the viewer in that it makes us feel like we have been transported to an older time and place, only to realize belatedly that it is contemporary. The photos are elaborately set up and then edited digitally to look and feel real. (How do they do it? I don’t know either. If I did, I’d be rich and famous and probably not writing this.)

This is ultimately my favorite photo. Ever. Why? I’m not too sure (when I first saw it, I thought the man really had these birds tied to him and was about to fly). Maybe I felt a connection with what I presumed was the picture’s manifestation of man’s perpetual desire to have wings and to fly, maybe… actually I’m just going to go with that. Hopeless as these actions may be, there is some kind of fantastical mythical comfort in knowing that we are not alone in these constant Quixotical attempts.

Now, bask in this glory:


The printing done on this is just amazing. It has just enough to make it seem like a picture taken in the early 1900s. The clothing, the rickety birdcage, the hat, all reinforce that preconception. It turns out that those birds are actually not alive, I think they are fake birds attached onto sticks that were then attached onto the man’s hand. I want a print of the first photo, Flying Lesson…

Here are some other images from the series, The Architect’s Brother. Who is the Architect? God? Your guess is as good as mine.


parkeharrison_Oppenheimer's Garden

ParkeHarrison introduced color in later projects which was an effective move to illustrate his ideas (most strikingly of human’s impact on the environment). For example, this photograph below. Pay attention to the contrast of colors, especially the use of red, for obvious reasons.

parkeharrison the wound

Not very subtle are we?

According to Robert ParkeHarrison, this is his philosophy behind his work:

My photographs tell stories of loss, human struggle, and personal exploration within landscapes scarred by technology and over-use…. [I] strive to metaphorically and poetically link laborious actions, idiosyncratic rituals and strangely crude machines into tales about our modern experience.

–Robert ParkeHarrison

Anyway, this body of work simply amazes me. Yes, it’s uncomfortable sometimes, but hey, Alice in Wonderland is considered a classic, and it’s freaky as hell.

Edit: I found something of an explanation of how these images were made:

“[T]he ParkeHarrisons printed their photographs from large paper negatives made by cutting and pasting a variety of images together. The underlying mechanics of this technique–including the seams between individual images–are carefully painted out in the negative. A photographic print is then made, which is often painted with a layer of varnish or beeswax. This genuinely original technique, combined with their elaborate process of set construction, crosses many creative boundaries. The result is a fascinating hybrid of sculpture, performance, painting and photography.”


~ by robinlam on September 10, 2009.

4 Responses to “Parkeharrison”

  1. wow these are truly amazing

    can i view his other works online?

  2. isn’t it great that one photograph can say so much? 🙂

  3. This man’s work is amazing. Quite macabre, which I suppose is to shock us with his message. I particularly like one image in his “Architect’s Brother” set where two people are pulling the grass over to cover the earth. Stepping away from the thematic element, how the heck does he do some of these things?!?!

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