Phantom Skies and Shifting Ground: Landscape, Culture, and Rephotography in Eadweard Muybridge's Rediscovered Illustrations of Central America

Santo Domingo
Casco Viejo, Panamá City, Panamá, 2010. Digital inkjet print.
Beneath the roof
of the Centro de Artesíana, Panamá City, Panamá, 2010. Digital inkjet print.
Monument One
relocated and deployed as lawn ornament, Naranja, Guatemala, 2007. Digital inkjet print.
Las Nubes
Former residence at Las Nubes coffee finca, now maintained as guest quarters for birdwatchers, Guatemala, 2009. Digital inkjet print.
The wandering satellite
segments of the same picture from different albums showing varied placement of an artificial moon, 2010. Digital inkjet print.
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Byron Wolfe’s work responds to the largely unknown late 19th-century photographs of Central America by Eadweard Muybridge, a collection of dark and moody pictures taken during a two-year expedition immediately following Muybridge’s involvement in a scandalous murder trial. Guided by Muybridge’s sophisticated but problematic combination prints that merge multiple negatives into seamless views, Wolfe traced Muybridge’s travels through Guatemala and Panama to create his own photographic analyses of the sites, spaces, and cultures that Muybridge encountered. Through the practice of rephotography -- photographing the same subject from the same perspective -- Wolfe initiates a dialogue with Muybridge over a divide of 130 years. Attempting to reconcile Muybridge’s constructed and altered views with his own visual interpretations, Wolfe provides one of the first critiques of rephotography as a practice entangled with ambiguity and impossibility. Constantly questioning the reliability of observation and the stability of the geography, Wolfe locates the representation of place -- both then and now -- in invention, and reinvention.

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