Margaret Stratton Statement

Artist Statement
My photographic project Ancient Ruins, Abandoned Naples, explores the relationship between mortality, religious doctrine, architecture and the historic ruin. My research about how different societies handle their dead led me to examine Western religion, in particular Catholicism, which constructs the body as visible, but not corporal. Despite our increasingly technological society we continue to be inundated with images of death, from makeshift graves and floating corpses in the floodwaters of New Orleans to the invisibility of the victims of the World Trade Center. We are constantly confronted with decisions on how to how to not only honor our dead, but how to imagine them. After 9/11, local authorities sifted through more than 1.2 million tons of debris to recover evidence of human remains. In photographs of 9/11, such as my project, Looking into Ground Zero, bodies of photographic work literally replaced the bodies that once inhabited the photographed spaces. In the case of the ancient facades of early Christian churches and the catacombs beneath them, the contents of these photographs are not “written on the body” to borrow from Jeanette Winterson, but are filled with bodies whose presence is instead written on the buildings that entomb them. As such, the catacomb stands as the last vestige of the corporal. As the body of the building falls into ruin, the subterranean is the last remnant. These photographs continue my investigation of spaces that embody accumulated histories and experiences, places that continue to define and to inform the present. In essence, these images are of places that physically replicate the past not only as relics but also as events, bearing traces of bodies in their most elemental form.

Process Statement
These photographs were made with HP-5 4x5 Film developed in Pyro Developer, and printed with Epson Archival Ultrachrome Ink on Hanamule Photo Rag paper.

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