David Halliday: Two Decades

Opening Reception: Saturday June 6 from 6 to 8pm

June 4, 2009 through July 12, 2009

To celebrate nearly 20 years of work, Carrie Haddad Photographs is pleased to announce "Two Decades”, an exhibition of photographs by David Halliday. This comprehensive exhibition, spanning from the early 1990s through the present, traces Halliday's intimate artistic journey and focus.

Halliday’s primary subjects are carefully-composed still lifes, portraits, and landscapes which he shoots in black and white film with only natural light. He is a purist behind the lens, rarely manipulating his negatives in any way and a master in the darkroom. His work has an ethereal quality that's translated not only through the subject, but also by the warm sepia tones he uses in his printing.The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with essays by Alfred Corn, a New York-based poet and critic, and gallery owner Carrie Haddad. An opening reception for the artist will be held on Saturday, June 6 from 6 to 8PM. All are invited to attend.

David Halliday
was born in Glen Cove, New York in 1958. His work is numerous public and private collections throughout the United States including the New Orleans Museum of Art.

Halliday lives and works in New Orleans, Louisiana.

For more information please contact Melissa Stafford at 518.828.7655 or melissa.stafford@carriehaddadgallery.com.

Tour of the exhibition:

Two Decades: David Halliday from Carrie Haddad Photographs on Vimeo.

Mutual Regard: The Photographs of David Halliday

by Alfred Corn

Photography is the most popular of all the arts. This was true even before cellphones and the digital revolution had given us the means to capture appealing or arresting things we encountered as we moved through our daily round. Precisely because there are so many photographic images flooding the magazines and the electronic miniverse, it becomes harder to hold out special favor for those that in fact do have all the qualities we expect in a complete work of art.

David Halliday sets himself apart from the bulk of contemporary photographic practice in several ways. Along with Aaron Rose and Sally Mann, he is one of the art photographers to have resisted adopting the new digital technology that produces instant color images. He develops his silver gelatin prints by hand, and his only technical departure from the standard black-and-white approach is to tone his pictures with sepia. Doing so connects him with the Photo-Secession movement launched by Alfred Stieglitz just over a century ago, when, in a different context, photographers with serious artistic goals tried to distinguish their work from aesthetically deficient examples of photography dominating the market in that day. Stieglitz’s associates were also trying to equal or surpass the quality of turn-of-the-century painting, which, in 1905, meant avoiding the documentary, signboard realism characteristic of most non-portrait photography of the era immediately preceding them. They wanted to prove that photography was indeed an art, and that its images could embody qualities of design and subtle evocation as successfully as Impressionist painting did.

As painting underwent and reflected the political and technological shocks of the 20th century, art photography, too, moved away from the Photo-Secessionist ideal toward something more startling and abrasive, often serving social causes by documenting human suffering in various parts of the globe. Surrealist photographers stage-managed and manipulated their pictures so as to produce imagery that seemed to belong to the uncanny arena of dreams or nightmares. Halliday, though he recalls the meditative refinement of the Photo-Secessionists, has drawn as well on Surrealist aesthetics to arrive at his imagery. Though his pictures represent real objects and contexts, they also have a speculative, dreamlike dimension—a quality most apparent in the still-life series of small, foursquare photographs showing objects at rest in a box, the main light source a circular “window” on the right-hand side. The sheer, inexplicable persistence involved in making several dozen pictures in this format would count as part of their overall strangeness. Meanwhile, the small container used in the series reminds us of a theatrical proscenium or else Joseph Cornell’s celebrated “shadow-boxes,” prime works of the dreamlike imagination. On this miniature, artificial stage, Halliday places fruits, vegetables or animals that, once withdrawn from Nature and thrust into this unnatural context, are transformed into dramatic characters whose purposes remain unfathomable, no matter how sharply delineated their form. The result can breathe with an unearthly tranquility, as in Pesca I More/ Peach and Blackberries, which looks like a social gathering, the participants in this instance pieces of fruit rendered in delicate light. Pictures can also verge on the nightmarish, as in Pulpo/Octopus, which gives us a sagging mass of sinister-looking flesh, complete with gleaming suckers. Just possibly Halliday wanted us to recall here the octopus’s cousin the squid, which was the original source for the sepia ink used to tone photographs in the 19th century.

Though Halliday does make portraits and studies of the human figure, his more characteristic subject matter is the inanimate world. And yet a paradox arises here. The designation “still life” implicitly suggests one of the goals of both painters and photographers dedicated to the genre: they want to imbue the inanimate objects they depict with the vibrancy of life despite the immobility of the medium. Like the great painters of still life—Zurbarán, Chardin, Cézanne, Morandi—Halliday charges his fruits, vegetables, and other objects with a poised intensity that intrigues us partly because possible meanings are just out of reach.

When Halliday moves to the subject matter of landscape, using much larger formats for the prints, a surprising thing happens: the landscapes attain a visionary stillness we don’t normally expect to find in outdoor scenes. In Atlantic Waves, Nantucket Island, the photographic medium manages to transform skies, clouds, and waves into a single sepia-toned substance that has, paradoxically, the eternized stillness of sculpture. The same applies to Italian Woods, but the attribute is at its severest in Arrowhead Rock, where the monolith in the middle distance and the cliff face to one side seem to match the muteness of visual art with their own refusal of motion—which is also an escape from the erosions of Time. They maintain their immobility without canceling the surmise that they are at some level conscious and, moreover, aware of being looked at. We can’t gaze for longer than a few seconds at David Halliday’s photographs without realizing that they, in turn, perceive us.

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David Halliday