Annie Laurie Erickson

Annie Laurie Erickson earned her BFA in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design and her MFA in photography from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is currently an Assistant Professor and the Director of Photography in the Newcomb Art Department at Tulane University. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally including at the Boston Center for the Arts, and CentrePasquArt, Bienne, Switzerland. Annie Laurie taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 2007-2010, where she developed a special topics course on the intersections of art and science in lens- based media. Today we feature her series titled, Slow Light.

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My artistic practice focuses on generating alternate modes of representation by isolating and exposing various aspects of sensory perception, using photography to create images outside the spectrum of human vision. This series, titled Slow Light, addresses the phenomenon of afterimages – the latent imagery that remains on our retinas after we look at the sun or at bright objects in the dark. Using handmade artificial retinas that register the remains of light, I am able to simulate an essentially unphotographable visual experience.

Afterimages have a transgressive quality that appeals to me. They appear when we use our eyes in ways that we shouldn’t – by staring at something too bright or holding our gaze for too long. When I first moved to Louisiana, I was struck by the appearance of oil refineries at night, which looked like strange forbidden cities. Soon after I started to photograph them, I was stopped by the police and told that refineries are indeed “unphotographable” according to post-9/11 regulations. This experience heightened my interest in them as photographic subjects.

Keeping a low profile, I began to systematically document refineries up and down the Mississippi River, using the afterimaging camera to render them as ghostly, mysterious constellations of light marked by unearthly color shifts. For me, these images evoke both a presence and an absence. They are points along a continuum between strict representation and subjective abstraction, or between our immediate visual reality and the decaying, remembered imagery that subconsciously shapes our perception.

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To view more of Annie’s work please visit her website.