Nick Meyer: Either Limits or Contradictions
I am afraid of dying. These pictures are an attempt to examine and confront the anxiety and eventuality that because we all were born, time will pass and so will we.
For many years, when spending time at a familial lake in Massachusetts, I would hike to a little graveyard that sat at the edge of the property. It was always a bit unsettling to find gravestones outside of a graveyard, and one in particular I’ve never forgotten. Carved into stone were the words:
Remember me as you pass by,
As you are now, so once was I,
As I am now, so you must be,
Prepare for death and follow me.
I’d head back to the house thinking about my mortality, thinking about how fast life rushes past, and how someday I will indeed be part of the earth. There is a melancholy to our mortality–sensing it, breathing it, and living it and it’s hard to shake as we bring the next generation into the world and straddle the perspective of looking both backwards and forwards.
Photographer Nick Meyer has beautifully articulated the fleeting and fragile nature of life lived in his new monograph, Either Limits or Contradictions, published by Daylight Books. After a series of close-to-home deaths, including his father, his best friend, and his mentor, photographer Larry Sultan, and the birth of his own children, the narcissistic focus of one’s youth shifted to “self-discovery, growing up and slowing down, and, in the end, coming to terms with death.” His photographs represent the ordinary, in between, or emotional rememberings that might not make it into the pages of the family album, but in some ways are far more important than marking birthdays and vacations.
Nick presents a narrative in three chapters: We Won’t Need Bright Light, Gonna Make Our Own Lightning, “a look at the hedonism and sense of indestructability that fills up our lives when we are young and fearless”, Heavenly Weather, that brings into focus the need to “embrace life’s infinite possibilities before it’s too late”, and finally, Mists and Exhalations, exploring the cyclical nature of the world.
Nick Meyer (b.1981) is a photographer and artist living and working in Conway, Massachusetts. He received his BFA from MassArt in 2005 and his MFA from California College of the Arts in 2008. His first book Pattern Language was published in 2010 by Brick Publishing. His work has also appeared in Vice Magazine, Mass Appeal Magazine, Wired, SF station, and as illustration for the Novella A Field Guide to the North American Family (Mark Batty Publisher 2007/Random House 2016). He is the recipient of the Pace Gallery Award and the Barclay Simpson Prize. His work has been shown both nationally and internationally and is held in private and public collections. He is represented by Uprise Art in New York.
Either Limits or Contradictions
I am afraid of dying. This is an attempt to circumvent the inevitable.
This project was not begun with that fear in mind, but as this project began to take shape, people in my life died and gave birth and life slowed, and I started to see the cycles forming in the work. I looked back at the photo albums that my father had curated for us; a record to look back on to affirm ourselves of our obvious youth. In these pictures I saw the people who are now gone and looked for those that didn’t get have the chance to be pasted into the pages of my history by my father before he died. The same cycles that were forming in my work had already been laid out in these family photos. The people, who, in my life, I have hugged, loved and mourned become Grandmother, Father and Friend with no names or histories attached in these albums. The story is not my own.
A photograph can only be removed from the reality in which it was conceived, an abstraction of truth. As my world has become more and more vulnerable I realize that my subjects have become less and less mine and now, as photographs, exist only as stand-ins for whoever, wherever and whatever.
Either Limits or Contradictions is a line taken from a movie. It doesn’t matter what movie or the context of the lines that were delivered before or after it. The words make sense to me as a way to quickly explain living. It is a story broken into three parts. The first part We Won’t Need Bright lights, Gonna Make our own Lightning is taken from a Neil Diamond song. Rock N’ Roll: Faster paced and selfish. These are images about hedonism, healing and self-discovery. A scrape heals. The world turns. There are no beginnings and no endings. The second book, a line out of a Lawrence Ferlinghetti poem, It Is Heavenly Weather, acts a break, a means to stop and slow down. A call to pay attention to the infinity that came before us and will follow after. The final part, Mists and Exhalations, a line from John Milton’s blank verse epic Paradise Lost, is putting life and death and time and the cyclical nature of the world into view. It is a critical look at the ups and downs, the permanence and impermanence that is are make-up and fear of being alive.
I made these pictures as a reminder that things pass. That I will pass and you will pass, a tree will fall and the sun will set, and then it will happen again and again. It is a memorial of a life being lived. A meditation on pacing and prose and letting things unfold. These pictures are a means of facing our truths and accepting fate.
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