In the new photobook, Circles, photographer Lisa McCarty pairs the complete text of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Circles” (1841) with images she has made with a Polaroid SX-70 camera and Polaroid One between 2011-2015. The combination of text and image explores the ways in which the circle is both an underlying form in nature and a metaphor for the human condition. Circles is available in a limited edition of 100 through Printed Matter and McCarty’s website.
“All of the images in Circles were shot on Impossible film, demonstrating its breadth and evolution over the first five years of production. I’ve always thought of Impossible film and photography itself as a means to extend vision. As an imagemaker I’m most interested in rendering the invisible, visible and revealing new ways of seeing.
I believe Emerson was similarly motivated, and often wrote about the wonders of vision. For Emerson, the eye is a gateway to perceive unity in the world. In one of the most well known passages from his essay ‘Nature’ Emerson writes, “Standing on the bare ground,–my head bathed in blithe air and uplifted into infinite space,– all egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God.”
The essay ‘Circles,’ which I include in its entirety in the photobook, begins in a similar fashion, “The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end. It is the highest emblem in the cipher of the world.” My goal in pairing images with Emerson’s beautiful prose, was not to illustrate it. I hope the text and image are co-equal, and illuminate each other.”