< Speculators

Landscape & Discovery

Diana Edkins
Hofstra University, Long Island, New York (1973)

“I was running so fast when I took this I didn’t notice my head until later.” Bill Dane, photo-postcard dated 18 December 1972, from Berkeley, California, to Dennis Longwell.

All the photographers, whether of the nineteenth or the twentieth century, share an ability to confront a vast unknown. They deal with the physical reality of a specific site. All the pictures convey accurate information; yet what distinguishes them from mere reportage is the sense of discovery. It is this never-ending search for discovery, the question not the answer, that is important. . . . . In Bill Dane’s photo-postcards the impulse to record nature carries realist veracity to its ultimate conclusion: the scrupulous notation of isolated phenomena. . . . . [Dane’s] photographs represent pure picture making, in which objects photographed and their relation to the larger world are not important. The content of [his] work at first seems obvious and unrestricted. There is a freedom of imagery in which the objects coexist in an atmosphere all their own. Dane’s postcards are testaments to photographing “nothing.” The adequacy of meaning lies in what we recognize as the intensity of Dane’s human response. The nothing includes the commonplace, the transient, the fragmented and the incidental. The landscape subjects are now vehicles for Dane’s vision. The postcards with their messages are the only remembrance of the perceptions Dane had at a particular time in a particular place. His work seems casual and freewheeling, allowing for more than the eye sees. The physical movement through space is as much a part of the experience of the confrontation as the subject itself.