Inner and Outer Light
by D. Eric Bookhardt, GAMBIT WEEKLY
In Mirlitons and Cherry Tomatoes, darkroom perfectionist David Halliday gets playful.
It happened very quickly. Suddenly, before most people had noticed, digital photography seemed to take over. So has the film camera gone the way of the dinosaur? Well, no, not really.
If much of America has gone digital, much of the world is still focused on film, and two current shows about town offer clear evidence why, when certain qualities are desired, black-and-white films and papers are still without peer. True, digital is improving and can do lovely things with color, yet there remains an elusive something about the best black-and-white silver prints that digital can’t match, at least, not yet. Some classic examples of this are on view at The Darkroom — New Orleans Center for the Photographic Arts, a new space for photo printing, complete with rental darkrooms and digital facilities. . .
. . . More classical black-and-white images appear in New Orleans photographer David Halliday’s new work at Bassetti. Halliday is a darkroom perfectionist known for his romantic portraits and fussy baroque still lifes, and here the latter are well represented. But there are also some new landscapes, and curious specimens they are.
Images such as Magnolia Trunk and Archway feature a magnolia and a spindly arched vine, respectively, bounded by a surfeit of flora, an arcadian anarchy rendered in high key tonalities that convey a sense of staring into a dazzling nothingness, a kind of arboreal void, such is their absence of defining formalities. Yet, this surrender to nature’s nihilism also makes for a nice counterpoint to the precious, witty and meticulous still lifes that we expect from this artist, and here he is true to form. Watermelon and Blackberries — some blackberries and a slice of melon on an old glass display pedestal — is a classic Halliday. The Rembrandt lighting and the contrast of the smooth glass and the rough wood beneath it convey a distinct Dutch baroque sensibility, but Halliday gets playful in works such as Mirlitons and Cherry Tomatoes, which looks like it sounds, only here the mirlitons are being attacked by snails. And Cruet and Eye is alchemical, a collection of glass implements and objects, including a glass eye resting on a flask and magnified behind a circular lens, like an early example of medieval surrealism. Halliday’s prints are, as always, splendiferous, but his willingness to experiment suggests that he has no intention of resting on his laurels anytime soon.