The Life of a Shut-In

"J. Lindemann: The Life of a Shut-In" from the Certificates of Presence
exhibition at Portrait Society Gallery, Milwaukee, January 18-March 8, 2014

Living as a recluse seemed intriguing as depicted in Kenneth Anger's Puce Moment (below) or Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard. Yet it was only through forced isolation that J. Lindemann (I) fully inhabited the hermit-lifestyle after nearly 30 years of making photographs about people and their spaces. The news of my diagnosis just days before the opening of our Decay Utopia Decay exhibition in November 2012 at Portrait Society Gallery in Milwaukee changed everything. For the first time we missed our own exhibition and a public appearance with Mike Perry whose book covers our photographs often graced. The cold air of winter had stung and viruses threatened. Seeking refuge in our Queen Anne house near the Lawrence University campus, our new iPhone camera became a tool to capture shafts of light, flowers, weather conditions outside the windows, examination rooms, and treatment modalities. Meanwhile, J. Shimon waited in clinic waiting rooms drawing scenes of rural utopia, art, grief, and my shut-in world. Contemplating the humor in the horrifying and the poetry in the mundane through making pictures provided an urgent and necessary distraction. Instagram had recently emerged and seemed a fitting venue for a post-diagnosis reality while enabling communication with the outside world (if only through likes and comments). Treatment raged on throughout the winter until the oncologist said the words "complete remission" and the crocuses bloomed. Thousands of digital images accumulated by the time Deb Brehmer suggested showing the series with Vivian Maier's Rolleiflex photographs and Livija Patikne's Kodachromes. Using populist display methods like digital photo frames, print-on-demand photo books, and small scale inkjet prints, "The Life of a Shut-in" series became a gallery experiment in the public expression of experience privately observed.  The works of Maier and Patikne combined with my digital images to examine how the camera could "define and defy a sense of isolation" while meditating on Roland Barthes Camera Lucida and his statement that photographs "make a three-dimensional object into a two-dimensional effigy" and the ultimate relationship of the photograph to time and inevitable death and that-has-been.
Every photograph is a certificate of presence...like the ectoplasm of "what-had-been"...a reality one can no longer touch - Roland Barthes

Read "Certificates of Presence" statement
by Debra Brehmer of Portrait Society Gallery

Read "Gallery Event Captures Social Isolation..." 
by Mary Louise Schumacher, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 1.16, 2014

Read "The Secret Life of an Artist" review
by Kat Murrell, Third Coast Daily 2.7.2014

View "The Life of a Shut-In" 129 image slideshow on Flickr