Intimations is a visual ode to the strange workings of the human mind. Fear and mystery wind through the book like the serpentine image on the book's dust jacket. The book comprises a collection of eight selected photographic portfolios created over the course of some fifty years of wrestling with how the mind perceives the implacable world in which it finds itself. Each portfolio is introduced by a short essay expressing the motivation behind the images. The early work, entitled "Resonances," establishes the dominant thread that binds the portfolios into a rich tapestry of ideas and imagery. Through selective composition and tonal remappings, Miller strives to capture significance apart from the literal meanings of the object before his lens. He likens the process of significance recognition to the experience of déjà vu, a flash of awareness, of meaning pointing beyond subject, of resonance with the unconscious mind. It is not without precedent. Alfred Stieglitz called it "equivalence." Edward Weston called it "the flame of recognition—relating obvious reality to the esoteric." For Clarence John Laughlin it was "transcendence of the object."
The book begins with early work of nature-inspired subjects, passes through a fantastical series of symmetrical, or near symmetrical, landscapes aptly named "Phantasms" to an imaginative sequence of "Asteroids" threatening the continuance of life on earth. On then, to the down-to-earth, apocalyptic artifacts of the Cold War, which could well have ended civilization as we know it, in a portfolio titled "The Dark Side." From there through a dramatic series of composite images of giant gear wheels, serving as surprising metaphors for military regimentation—the only portfolio that is expressed in color. Continuing the thread of menace is the chilling "Pestilence" portfolio of deadly pathogens, including that causing COVID-19—all digitally derived from microscopic studies by the CDC. Next, an intensely personal portfolio, "Portals and Passages" portrays the labyrinthine 19th-century forts along the Gulf of Mexico coastline as metaphors for life's unexpected challenges. Lastly, an extraordinary portfolio of composite images is presented with the intriguing title of "Contending Realities" that blends modern weapons of war with neolithic stone carvings. The irrational beliefs lurking in the minds of individuals responsible for the design of these sophisticated war machines contend uneasily with the rational technological mindsets required to create them. Together, the essay and images of this last portfolio make a fitting finale to an eerily disquieting, stunningly creative, thought-provoking, and beautiful body of work. Here is an exceptional contribution to photographic art, created through the contemplative discipline imposed by large-format cameras and reproduced using an advanced stochastic half-toning process that preserves amazing detail and tonal subtleties.
That inspiration ranges from enigmatic to deeply personal, as manifested in his 2002 image “The Foreboding,” created a few months before his son’s death—a thorny bramble reminiscent of the jagged edges of grief—or his rendering “Phantasm No. 33, 2005” that suggests soft symmetry and treacherous depths through a surreal natural landscape. Miller summons hints of destruction, too, in his 2007 Asteroid series, attempting to capture the essence of “potentially catastrophic earth colliders” through a sequence of somber photographs that mimic the rocks’ chilling beauty.
Aficionados will relish digging into Miller’s exploration of the driving forces behind his work and his passion for evoking “strong but evanescent emotional responses.” To better illustrate the hidden meanings in these pieces, he reproduces them all in black and white, acknowledging upfront that color can be more of a distraction than a catalyst for deep reflection. Perhaps most menacing are the testimonials to the Cold War, a range of photographs documenting the dark humor that often comes with the terrors of war: Miller juxtaposes a Minuteman II ICBM missile with a snapshot of a missile blast door decorated with “world-wide delivery in 30 minutes or less or your next one is free” across the front. This is a magnetic, but unsettling, collection that will invoke profound mediation.
Takeaway: A haunting photographic collection that hints at the devastation of human nature.
Great for fans of: Clarence John Laughlin, John Alexander Dersham’s Changing Moods.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-
Author and photographer Miller challenges himself and his readers by exploring a world of contradictions through the lens of a camera. Before offering a series of photographs taken over 50 years, the author presents his own history as a photographer, the inspirations for his work, and some technical camera jargon that will be most useful to other experienced photographers. These first several pages draw on the ideas of photographers Minor White and Paul Caponigro, as well as those of psychologist Carl Jung, to explain the author's attraction to the subjects of his photographs. These works feature alluring images of nature and detailed images of technology, including computers and thermonuclear weapons as well as magnifications of bacteria and viruses under a microscope. Miller tells of discovering himself as an artist as he edited his photos; although the reason for a particular shot may begin as a mystery, Miller effectively uses each one to examine what it means to depend on intuition, or the "unconscious application of rational thought," in one's art. This leads to the central themes of the collection: the relationships between order and chaos, and nature and technology. Miller is an artist who was educated as a physicist and served as a U.S. Army officer; as such, his photos not only investigate the natural, abstract world, but also the world of order and science. The collection is clearly divided into eight parts that address vastly different subjects but explore similar concepts; Miller prefaces each section with an introspective, poetic summary, but it always remains the reader's gratifying responsibility to assign meaning to each image.
An exquisite and insightful set of diverse photographs.
To see beyond the literalness of what is in front of the lens is to see the world with fresh eyes. It is through Martin Miller's remarkable and evocative photographs that we are given a path to broader understandings of how we perceive the world. He presents deeply life-aware observations along with insightful writings that give us a glimpse into stimulating and new ways of seeing. Each chapter presents metaphors for what it is to be human with all its complex meanings and mysteries. Going deeper into one's psyche in order to see anew is our mission as artists, and Miller has done so with great sensitivity, commitment, and success.
Looking at Martin Miller’s C.V. as a long-practicing physicist, one wouldn’t imagine that he has the spirit of a poet and the eye of a visual artist. But this remarkable volume of his photographs, made over the past half century, prove that the two mindsets are not at all incompatible. Maybe, in fact, the physicist’s quest to discover nature’s mysteries with mechanical instruments and formulas is exactly matched by an artist’s manipulation of words and images. In any case, this stunning collection of black-and-white photographs of nature (rocks, plants, trees, and water) along with striking images of man-made machines and structures, as well as amazing macro-photographs of disease and other microorganisms provide an endless source of pleasure and stimulation. The variety and visual power of the photographs in this book make it unique among most similar collections of an artist’s work.
―Bronze Medal Winner, Fine-Art Book Category, 2022 Tokyo International Foto Awards
―Bronze Medal Winner, Fine-Art Book Category, 2022 Budapest International Foto Awards
―Bronze Medal Winner, Fine-Art Book Category, 2022 PX3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris