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Primordial Visions: the Photography of Howard Pugh
Artist Statment primordial element: The Sunprimordial element: Fireprimordial element: The Atomprimordial element: Lightning
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About Howard Pugh
"He who was living is now dead,
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience"
-T.S. Elliot       

As all things human-fashioned are invariably undone or unbecome in their journey back to the primordial, a subtle cosmological intent gets revealed. There is a great underlying mystery in the return pull to the primordial, not perhaps an actual intelligence, but a force that expresses itself in the very style in which all that's artificial must flow back into the sea of the pre-organized; a tide receding, a tide reconvening. Far from random occurrences of rust, of peeling paint, fading and degradation, the great mystery of the return to the primordial is a process of communication, of dialogue; the etchings of decay - its very handwriting. There is remarkable order here, albeit not the order of our world, or order in the realm of abstract understanding, but also not an order subjugated to the superficial tyranny known as chaos either. Even nihilistic ideology as a human creation, eventually withers and is crushed by the ever-fixed pull of the great mystery to the primordial.


In the fall of 2006 when I began to focus on the theme of my portfolio —trying to find a kind beauty and order in the decay of all things human— I began to sense a presence lurking in several of my photographs. As I continued to explore and excavate more deteriorating environments, the presence began to grow more immediate, manifesting itself in almost every shot I composed, even take short rides with me in the car on my way home. Finally in November I recognized it, although still somewhat refracted into the muted image of my viewfinder, yet revealing itself unmistakably in my mind: an unblinking Cyclops eye peering out at me. This started out as a terrific shock, like when someone wakes in the middle of the night and, after several moments of their eyes adjusting to the subtle variations in the shadows, suddenly notices a stranger standing silently only a few feet from the bed. As this repeated itself the flashes of terror would subside quicker and finally just a slight unnerving feeling. After my last photo trip I actually experienced a brief sense of loss. From the beginning I also felt a strong emotion from the Cyclops eye that dissipated into a growing comfort level later on.

Theory of the Cyclops Eye

I can think of two rational explanations for this strange experience:

1. The eye belonged to the equivalent of another photographer who exists in parallel or anti-world. One where all things created have already become and are done: that's the primordial state. A civilization that began fully "evolved", where individuals are captivated by the temporariness of decomposition and destruction, how after great periods of time they always return to their intended state of completion. To this one photographer (Mr. Cyclops) the way in which things re-composed seemed to have a strange order of their own, a strange fingerprint as the pull of the complete brought them back into the natural state.

2. That in tapping into the great mystery of return to the primordial there are moments when the infinite scrambles the everyday. In the process of exploration I intersected with another variation of my own self in a reality where the mechanics of time make perfect sense in reverse. The strong emotion I felt from the Cyclops eye in the beginning may not have been of fear, but a sense of loss.

Howard Pugh
  The Primordial Photography of Howard Pugh
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