Wild Nights, Imagining the Unseen

In keeping with his predilection for making photographs of things we do not see, but know are there, Michael Flomen’s presentation will highlight the unorthodox practices he favors to channel nature’s hidden energies. Committed to pushing the boundaries of photography towards uncharted territories, Flomen produces large-scale cameraless images in direct communion with nature. Since dispensing with cameras altogether some fifteen years ago, his work has reflected a persistent dialogue between the body and the environment. Working outdoors at night with nothing but light sensitive materials between his physical self and the natural elements, Flomen creates immersive images, which reveal a consummate experimenter fond of serendipity and his fascination with the origins of life. His talk will address his creative process, his bodily interaction with nature and photographic materials, and the resulting imagery drawn from several series of photograms embodying his performative practice. For Higher Ground, Flomen relies on the bioluminescence of fireflies engaged in the courting process to record their movement through time and space on photographic film. In contrast, the series Littoral and Teeming are created barefoot and knee-deep in murky marshes teeming with aquatic life, organic matter, and sediment. For the Rising photograms, Flomen uses his whole body to scrunch photomural paper to impart a three-dimensional relief to its surface, before exposing it with strong raking light either covered with snowflakes or submerged in water. Other series rely on handmade negatives to photogram the eerie biomorphic forms of translucent frogspawn or the intricate design of spiderwebs.

Michael Flomen

Michael Flomen was born in Montreal in 1952, and lives and works in Montreal and New York City. A self-taught photographer, he has exhibited in the United States, Canada and Europe. Flomen’s work can be found in collections including the Musée National du Québec, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, George Eastman House, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Musée d’Art Contemporain, Montreal, and the National Gallery of Canada. Flomen has taught photography at Concordia University in Montreal and has lectured at Harvard University; recent awards include both “B” and “A” grants from the Canada Council for the Arts. Flomen has been experimenting with photography since the late 1960s; in 1999, he started using camera-less techniques, collaborating directly with nature to create photograms directly outdoors in the countryside. Flomen registers the activity of light directly, capturing unseen secrets of natural phenomena.