Portraits in Breathing from EXPERIMENTS IN BREATHING

All living beings breathe. In colder climates children often entertain themselves during winter by blowing their breath onto a glass window, fascinated to watch the frosted halos that appear slowly dissolve. My photographs and videos from Experiments in Breathing recreate this simple act, exploring human respiration as a kind of mark making, and proof of life—a fleeting trace of our living, physical embodiment.

For this series, I invite friends, family, and others to breathe onto the glass surface of an ordinary flatbed scanner. Capturing each backlit exhalation as its vaporous residue fades from view, the scanner records its imprint, making visible its immaterial substance. Printed as true-to-scale recordings, the photographs made from the individual scans show disembodied portraits that—just like a fingerprint or snowflake—no two breaths or moments are alike. The videos likewise explore the powerful presence of breath as an affirmation of life. I think about how the collective breaths of previous generations—no matter age, race, religion, gender, or beliefs—commingle in the atmosphere as an essential part of the cycles of nature, transforming back into the air each of us breathes —joining many into one. Life is expressed in our relationships to one another and our individual beings as part of a larger picture we cannot see. Floating within a dark void, their ghostly forms draw visual parallels between the imperceptible world of microorganisms and cosmic bodies and events that occur in distant space. Mediating upon the origins of life, Experiments in Breathing directs attention to the invisible but vital significance of breath, while reflecting upon the future of humanity and the fragility of life.