By David Ricci
After a brief career as a biomedical engineer my life took an odd turn into the world of fine art photography. Although I left engineering for art, my interest in science and mathematics never waned. Several years ago I read M. Mitchell Waldrop’s book Complexity, which describes and explains the field of complexity science. This discipline investigates what occurs when large quantities of individual elements are assembled into increasingly complicated systems. Waldrop explains that at some high level of organization termed the 'edge of chaos', a new structure can emerge - something that is not just complicated, but rather an entirely new entity that is both greater than the sum of its parts and essentially different from the components that produced it.
After making photographs for several years I recognized a strong connection between this concept and the direction my work was headed as my compositions had become progressively complex and approached the tipping point of information overload.
In 2015 I was incredibly fortunate to receive the Publication Skills Grant offered by the print and online photography publication LensWork and administered through the Luminous Endowment for Photographers. The purpose of the grant is to provide funding to develop a photography book and prepare it for publication.
To that end, for more than a year I have worked with designer Larry Chernicoff from Windhorse Communications Design to develop the design and after countless revisions, edits and re-sequencing of the photographs we now have a hardbound prototype of my photobook, Edge of Chaos. This monograph progresses through a series of projects from the past 35 years while drawing parallels to complexity science and nuclear physics.
Edge of Chaos is organized into six sections that weave together the overarching concept:
The first two parts trace the evolution from minimalist images to ones of increasing compositional complexity.
ELEMENTS: Architectural subjects photographed in a sparse, formalist vein based on fundamental geometric shapes.
EMERGENCE: Selections from a decade-long project photographing recreational sites throughout America - theme parks, sports facilities, miniature golf courses and the like. The work evolves from purely formalist images to an exploration of the kitschy environments when they are nearly abandoned which seems to transform these normally lively attractions into eerie, surreal landscapes.
While the geometric underpinnings remained, as the work evolved I progressively included more visual elements in the frame and the compositions became more intricate. After several years of mining increasingly complex scenes I reached a point where I tried to orchestrate a plethora of visual elements. I had arrived at the edge of chaos.
Since that time I have produced several bodies of work photographing in a similar vein - using very intricate formal structures to reveal an underlying elegance embedded in haphazard scenes. The next four sections of Edge of Chaos contain selections from those portfolios. They explore a broad range of subject matter and themes while expanding the visual vocabulary.
FISSION: a series of projects that examines the startling confluence of loss and grace in dismantled factories, demolished buildings and disaster sites.
FUSION: A photo essay that comments on our throwaway society while revealing an unexpected synchronicity found in heaps of discarded objects.
STRINGS: complex structures emerge from dense networks of sinewy strands of vegetation.
WAVES: a recent project focusing on commercial fishing, often termed the most dangerous job in the world. Despite the physical absence of the crew, these photographs of the vessels and piers evoke their presence and the life of the working waterfront.
While the book is very near its final form my intent is to add an essay or two from contributing authors and I am currently contacting writers and publishers to bring the publication to fruition. Like many of the photographs between its covers, Edge of Chaos is a multilayered work. It is at once a survey of a photographer’s life’s work, a view into the evolution of style, and a series of unique photo essays that explore our impact on the world, examine human presence in peopleless environments and reveal unexpected beauty entrenched in haphazard scenes. All of this is woven together by an allegory of complexity science.
If you would like to follow the progress of Edge of Chaos or to be notified when it is published please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit my website www.davidricci.net or check out my Facebook page.