Luther Gerlach is an escape artist. He escapes confinement from present-day
reality by simulating feelings, experiences, and signifiers of a world gone past through
photographic techniques long since abandoned. Using a mid-19th century wet plate process,
large-format restored antique cameras (8"x10" through 30"x40") and lenses dating from 1850
to 1940, Gerlach embarks upon a journey of commitment and idealism with each session to
produce a single photograph.
He says, "Quite often, I feel as if my soul is in the past and my mind is in the future."
There is no place in time more limiting than the present. In the future, we see endless
possibilities where we are free to indulge fantasies of what might become, and in the past,
we have an absolute lack of responsibility and can release ourselves from the liability of
committing any action. It is no surprise, then, that artists of all media find their imaginations
taking up residence outside the here and now.
But there are no neighbors when one lives out of time, and throughout Gerlach's work, the
audience feels a chronic, self-imposed state of isolation and distance from the photographic
subject living in the present. His nudes and portraits are photographed with hesitance and
apology for their intimacy, while inanimate objects and scenery take on the burden of proving
their own existence, and there is a sense of secrecy and suspicion of hidden forms lurking out
of focus, beneath fog or debris. The viewer can't help but wonder what truth has been obscured or
lost through the simulation of a world that never existed.