September 8 –
For the last six-odd years I’ve driven a 52-mile commute each way to and from my practice—from my suburban home, along a busy stretch of interstate highway through central Kentucky, to my workplace in a small city, and back again at day’s end. In 52 miles I am presented with a varying tableau of topographies and seasons—a natural landscape marked by the handiwork of people whom I rarely see. I pass homes small and large, modest and palatial; truck stops, quarries, and industrial sites; rural hamlets and suburban shopping malls. I’ve stopped frequently, time permitting; or returned at more leisure to photograph, with no clear plan other than taking a closer look.
I’ve been fascinated by the lines, shapes, angles, patterns, and colors I’ve observed, abstracted by the speed of my passage. These geometries and forms are the initial visual draw, but others emerge: a certain quality of light; an asymmetry or incongruity that jarringly halts one’s otherwise-frictionless survey of the scene. Or a landscape of such manicured plastic faux perfection that it discomfits with its suggestion of discontent among material abundance. The resulting images have provoked in me, variously, feelings of satisfaction, amusement, ambivalence, isolation, or even vague menace. Further, they have spurred me to examine the same themes beyond the littoral of the 52-mile visual river I travel. Banal or inconsequential? Inarguably yes, in many cases. But through six years of observation, one can’t help but take notice of the stuff of one’s own world, looking for the beautiful, logical, or meaningful that coexists with the banal or inconsequential. Finding that, and hoping to capture what I see somehow, is what makes me take the next exit ramp to somewhere little known, or return again and again to the same lonely (or familiar?) cul-de-sac.
Michael Sebastian was born in New Orleans, and grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Dallas, Texas. He starting making and developing photographs around age eight (thanks, Mr. Treat) using the Kodak Brownie of renowned “my-first-camera” cliché. Once its brittle Bakelite finally yielded to his ham-fisted ministrations, he graduated to an n-thhand Zeiss Ikon Contina with a broken light meter, which further disappointed him by failing to bounce resiliently from concrete. Nonplussed, Michael wound up graduating from medical school and two residencies, photographing all the while, with greater or lesser frequency, around life’s other obligations. Along the way, he married a Kentuckian and moved to Louisville to raise two children. When not shooting, he practices anesthesiology in central Kentucky, in roughly that order of precedence. Fortunately for both cameras and patients, he now drops things far less frequently.