Long seen as symbolic of other realms, shadows are more than the mere physics of light. They suggest something else and have an aura of magic and mystery. They accompany everyone yet go largely unnoticed. In these haunting depictions sometimes the shadow seems more real than the subject and leads us into archetypes, mythology, and the subconscious. For years I’ve been chasing these photon phantoms by photographing my shadow while exploring wild, numinous places. In my haunting of ancient ruins, caves, canyons, and rock art sites I spend time where surreal shadows are cast upon the rocks and interposed with ancient symbols and wild landscapes. These spectral portraits seem bright with the essence and power of such places. The Ancient Ones often marked the rock with handprints and other images to record their presence—I stamp it with my shadow. Painting with light on the walls of symbolic caves, I superimpose my ephemeral impressions over inscrutable old ones. The photographic process is an unavoidable metaphor for the subject of catching shadows, and I am mindful of the notion held by many native cultures that a photograph somehow captures one’s soul or spirit.
One’s shadow can be mysterious in numinous places where there is a tangible ancient presence. It is said some shamans could penetrate rock, passing through cracks as portals to the spirit-world within. My shadow knocks on these invisible doors where ancient vision-seekers held vigils.
These images can be somber or playful; I think of them as photogeoglyphs (light-earth-symbols) and present them here with original prose or excerpts from other sources. Perhaps these depictions serve as a visual mantra or haiku, reminding me that this day is real, this body is real, these rocks are real, this shadow is real—it should be enough. Reality is transcendent enough for the careful observer.
Dennis Slifer is a writer and photographer with wide-ranging interests. He is the author of eight books about prehistoric rock art in the Southwest, as well as "The Caves of Maryland" and various environmental reports and magazine articles. In 2007 he retired as an environmental scientist in New Mexico and moved to rural Virginia where he divides his time between writing, homesteading, and traveling. He has produced a memoir plus eleven other books with Blurb since 2011: - Be Careful What You Wish For: The Saga of Sow’s Ear Farm - Ambling Around the Atacama and the Altiplano - Sol y Sombra: Meeting the Shadow - Art on the Rocks: The Best of the Quest - My People Collection - Quay's Tale: A Memoir of Monkey Boy - Critters: A Tribute to Compassion - Sideway Cider Squeezin" - Marking Change: Post-contact Rock Art in the Southwest - Curios: Collecting Eclectic - THIS IS IT!: Strange Signs, Social Oddities, and Antidotes to Boredom
SIDEWAY CIDER SQUEEZIN' Published November 28, 2012
CRITTERS Published October 23, 2012
QUAY'S TALE: A MEMOIR OF MONKEY BOY Published July 11, 2012
My People Collection Published June 25, 2012
ART on the ROCKS Published March 18, 2012
Ambling Around the Atacama and the Altiplano Published January 29, 2012
Be Careful What You Wish For: The Saga of Sow's Ear Farm Published January 24, 2012