Shamanistic dances on glowing panels

Anahata is a multidisciplinary photography-based project of John Singletary

Words by

Artdoc

© John Singletary | Anahata

Anahata is a multidisciplinary photography-based project in which John Singletary worked with a group of other artists including dancers, costume designers, makeup artists, choreographers, and technicians in the service of creating a series of elaborate photographs and video works. The pieces draw heavily on mythology, Jungian archetypal symbolism, shamanic ritual, some of the aesthetic sensibilities of renaissance and baroque painting, as well as elements of African, Ionian, and tribal art.    

“While I was already an established and exhibiting photographer at the time, this project took me way out of my comfort zone and I think I speak for most everyone involved in saying this. I’d had plenty of experience working as a studio photographer and long prior realized that my most valuable contributions to photography were made in a controlled setting. By expressing my ideas through carefully planned scenes as opposed to going out into the world with a camera and searching for subject matter that resonated with me. However, in the early stages of this project it was all a huge experiment, a methodically planned one but an experiment nonetheless. I think that the fact that we all collectively understood this afforded a certain degree of freedom and permission to ‘play’ that allowed for something special to happen.”

© John Singletary | Anahata


Human relations

Sanskrit for "unhurt" or "unbroken", the word Anahata corresponds to the energy of the heart, the "unstruck sound", and a harmonic resonance with the celestial realm. Thematically, Anahata deals with human relationships in the broader sense of the word. These could be romantic, familial, platonic, even one’s relationship with oneself, one’s internal world, spiritual or religious beliefs, connection to a power greater than themselves, to divinity in its many forms and manifestations.

John Singletary: “The phenomenon of being born into this world without a choice in the matter is something that I find to be inherently sacred, blissful at times, deeply sad and horribly confusing simultaneously. One of the most terrifying aspects of this is that it is truly up to us where we choose to place our faith, to what we ascribe value and meaning. Since the beginning of the human species to the present day we have been creating stories, mythologies, searching for answers, a way to feel maybe a little less alone.”

 

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Ideological boxes  

According to Singletary, we have developed a potentially destructive freedom to place ourselves into neatly defined ideological boxes. “This can be on a basis of race, gender identity, religion, politics, education, socio-economic status and so forth. While I’m not naive about how real and different our experiences of life can be, I do believe that underlying all of this is a core of deep and innate humanity that connects us and that this force is more powerful than the factors that divide, the feeling that there is a unity of consciousness and oneness that is truly shared, a place that we can glimpse in our own unique ways, through music, prayer, dance, devotion, making love, dreams, and silence. This work is an expression of what that place feels like for me. This kind of thing is extremely hard to talk about and I usually don’t, as I have my own personal interpretation of the narratives within the work, I want to leave room for the viewer to find themselves and their own stories in the imagery.”            

John Singletary | Anahata


Inspiration

The exact origin of his inspiration Singletary finds hard to pinpoint. “I feel it was more a culmination of life experiences that I found simultaneously challenging to articulate and impossible to ignore or look away from and I knew I had something that was personally important for me to express. That being said, at the time it honestly wasn’t fully clear exactly what that was so I just started sketching and letting the ideas take me where they would without a predetermined destination or conceptual end point. I feel like there are many ways of making art that can be equally valid. One is very cerebral, starting with a clear and concise concept and working to find the most eloquent way and compelling way to express this within a given medium. I work much more from a place of unfiltered emotion and instinct. Many times, images or ideas would hit me almost fully formed at unpredictable moments and it would be a process of distillation.”

© John Singletary | Anahata


Special studio

Singletary started by constructing a studio designed specifically for this project in a beautiful but deteriorating old Victorian-style home in Philadelphia. “It had this ghostly, haunted energy about it and that turned out to be quite an appropriate setting for what we were about to do in a way that seemed almost fated. It was a beautiful mess, we lined the walls and floor with black velvet to produce the deep blacks in the images, the ceiling was a cacophony of wires and carefully positioned strobes on a radio trigger system, however, the key element was use of UV light. I shot with a Nikon D-800 which was modified to expand its spectral sensitivity and used a complex system of filtration to achieve the unique, ghostly appearance of some of the images, which was a product of the process and not digital manipulation.”

© John Singletary | Anahata


Surreal

“The sessions themselves were a bizarre and surreal experience, which was almost a work of performance art in its own right. It felt otherworldly, we shot in total darkness except for a thin ambient wash of UV haze, everything was glowing with this seemingly bio-luminescent radiance and given that we were isolated in this environment without reference to the outside world, it was easy to lose all sense of time so some of the shoots lasted upwards of sixteen hours. While it was both a demanding and exhausting process, the space and atmosphere were so energetically charged that it didn’t matter and, in retrospect, I feel that this disconnect from reference to day to day reality gave all of us, especially the dancers, a feeling of internal permission to express ourselves in a free and uninhibited way.”

© John Singletary | Anahata


OLED

The work is presented on synchronized arrays of OLED panels in a darkened environment in which the walls are lined with black felt. “Images materialize from and recede into darkness on timed loops alongside original music composed in a collaboration between myself and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist, Matt Hollberg. Amber Maldstadt and I also worked together in introducing a live dance element at openings that is sort of a slow, unfolding performance piece that adds almost a meta-layer to the experience. The installation form of presentation is compelling for me and aims to create a meditative, reflective space, a refuge from the often-chaotic nature of the outside world, luminous and charged with a similar energy as a church or sanctuary.”

John Singletary feels attracted to this technology because of its ability for artistic expression in the context of this work. “The panels glow with the warmth of a split sepia/selenium toned silver print and do not in their appearance reference television, which would be quite antithetical to the thematic content of the work. The idea of light is very important to this series from a metaphoric standpoint, it’s aesthetically the most impactful mode of presentation. Given the intensity of the studio process, an exhibition of purely traditional prints could only have felt anti-climactic. I do also make pigment prints of this series, but I find that while a print offers a window into a world, with an installation I get to create that world which is far more exciting.”

Learning to be still

John Singletary does not believe in the old-fashioned notion of the suffering of the artist and the romanticizing of tragedy, but he does find a meditative approach to his work as an artist more appropriate. “Making art can be an essential therapeutic outlet for one's angst and turmoil, it has been for me at times, however, this often-perpetuated glorification is a dangerous fiction and the truth of the matter is that instability or being strung out never made anyone better. In my view, learning to be still, to listen, to develop a sense of quiet and attunement is important. Making work is a sacred thing, because everything matters a little more than we might allow ourselves to consider.”


https://www.johnsingletaryimaging.com/


Shamanistic dances on glowing panels

Anahata is a multidisciplinary photography-based project of John Singletary

Words by

Artdoc

© John Singletary | Anahata

Anahata is a multidisciplinary photography-based project in which John Singletary worked with a group of other artists including dancers, costume designers, makeup artists, choreographers, and technicians in the service of creating a series of elaborate photographs and video works. The pieces draw heavily on mythology, Jungian archetypal symbolism, shamanic ritual, some of the aesthetic sensibilities of renaissance and baroque painting, as well as elements of African, Ionian, and tribal art.    

“While I was already an established and exhibiting photographer at the time, this project took me way out of my comfort zone and I think I speak for most everyone involved in saying this. I’d had plenty of experience working as a studio photographer and long prior realized that my most valuable contributions to photography were made in a controlled setting. By expressing my ideas through carefully planned scenes as opposed to going out into the world with a camera and searching for subject matter that resonated with me. However, in the early stages of this project it was all a huge experiment, a methodically planned one but an experiment nonetheless. I think that the fact that we all collectively understood this afforded a certain degree of freedom and permission to ‘play’ that allowed for something special to happen.”

© John Singletary | Anahata


Human relations

Sanskrit for "unhurt" or "unbroken", the word Anahata corresponds to the energy of the heart, the "unstruck sound", and a harmonic resonance with the celestial realm. Thematically, Anahata deals with human relationships in the broader sense of the word. These could be romantic, familial, platonic, even one’s relationship with oneself, one’s internal world, spiritual or religious beliefs, connection to a power greater than themselves, to divinity in its many forms and manifestations.

John Singletary: “The phenomenon of being born into this world without a choice in the matter is something that I find to be inherently sacred, blissful at times, deeply sad and horribly confusing simultaneously. One of the most terrifying aspects of this is that it is truly up to us where we choose to place our faith, to what we ascribe value and meaning. Since the beginning of the human species to the present day we have been creating stories, mythologies, searching for answers, a way to feel maybe a little less alone.”

 

Ideological boxes  

According to Singletary, we have developed a potentially destructive freedom to place ourselves into neatly defined ideological boxes. “This can be on a basis of race, gender identity, religion, politics, education, socio-economic status and so forth. While I’m not naive about how real and different our experiences of life can be, I do believe that underlying all of this is a core of deep and innate humanity that connects us and that this force is more powerful than the factors that divide, the feeling that there is a unity of consciousness and oneness that is truly shared, a place that we can glimpse in our own unique ways, through music, prayer, dance, devotion, making love, dreams, and silence. This work is an expression of what that place feels like for me. This kind of thing is extremely hard to talk about and I usually don’t, as I have my own personal interpretation of the narratives within the work, I want to leave room for the viewer to find themselves and their own stories in the imagery.”            

John Singletary | Anahata


Inspiration

The exact origin of his inspiration Singletary finds hard to pinpoint. “I feel it was more a culmination of life experiences that I found simultaneously challenging to articulate and impossible to ignore or look away from and I knew I had something that was personally important for me to express. That being said, at the time it honestly wasn’t fully clear exactly what that was so I just started sketching and letting the ideas take me where they would without a predetermined destination or conceptual end point. I feel like there are many ways of making art that can be equally valid. One is very cerebral, starting with a clear and concise concept and working to find the most eloquent way and compelling way to express this within a given medium. I work much more from a place of unfiltered emotion and instinct. Many times, images or ideas would hit me almost fully formed at unpredictable moments and it would be a process of distillation.”

© John Singletary | Anahata


Special studio

Singletary started by constructing a studio designed specifically for this project in a beautiful but deteriorating old Victorian-style home in Philadelphia. “It had this ghostly, haunted energy about it and that turned out to be quite an appropriate setting for what we were about to do in a way that seemed almost fated. It was a beautiful mess, we lined the walls and floor with black velvet to produce the deep blacks in the images, the ceiling was a cacophony of wires and carefully positioned strobes on a radio trigger system, however, the key element was use of UV light. I shot with a Nikon D-800 which was modified to expand its spectral sensitivity and used a complex system of filtration to achieve the unique, ghostly appearance of some of the images, which was a product of the process and not digital manipulation.”

© John Singletary | Anahata


Surreal

“The sessions themselves were a bizarre and surreal experience, which was almost a work of performance art in its own right. It felt otherworldly, we shot in total darkness except for a thin ambient wash of UV haze, everything was glowing with this seemingly bio-luminescent radiance and given that we were isolated in this environment without reference to the outside world, it was easy to lose all sense of time so some of the shoots lasted upwards of sixteen hours. While it was both a demanding and exhausting process, the space and atmosphere were so energetically charged that it didn’t matter and, in retrospect, I feel that this disconnect from reference to day to day reality gave all of us, especially the dancers, a feeling of internal permission to express ourselves in a free and uninhibited way.”

© John Singletary | Anahata


OLED

The work is presented on synchronized arrays of OLED panels in a darkened environment in which the walls are lined with black felt. “Images materialize from and recede into darkness on timed loops alongside original music composed in a collaboration between myself and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist, Matt Hollberg. Amber Maldstadt and I also worked together in introducing a live dance element at openings that is sort of a slow, unfolding performance piece that adds almost a meta-layer to the experience. The installation form of presentation is compelling for me and aims to create a meditative, reflective space, a refuge from the often-chaotic nature of the outside world, luminous and charged with a similar energy as a church or sanctuary.”

John Singletary feels attracted to this technology because of its ability for artistic expression in the context of this work. “The panels glow with the warmth of a split sepia/selenium toned silver print and do not in their appearance reference television, which would be quite antithetical to the thematic content of the work. The idea of light is very important to this series from a metaphoric standpoint, it’s aesthetically the most impactful mode of presentation. Given the intensity of the studio process, an exhibition of purely traditional prints could only have felt anti-climactic. I do also make pigment prints of this series, but I find that while a print offers a window into a world, with an installation I get to create that world which is far more exciting.”

Learning to be still

John Singletary does not believe in the old-fashioned notion of the suffering of the artist and the romanticizing of tragedy, but he does find a meditative approach to his work as an artist more appropriate. “Making art can be an essential therapeutic outlet for one's angst and turmoil, it has been for me at times, however, this often-perpetuated glorification is a dangerous fiction and the truth of the matter is that instability or being strung out never made anyone better. In my view, learning to be still, to listen, to develop a sense of quiet and attunement is important. Making work is a sacred thing, because everything matters a little more than we might allow ourselves to consider.”


https://www.johnsingletaryimaging.com/


Shamanistic dances on glowing panels

Anahata is a multidisciplinary photography-based project of John Singletary

Words by

Artdoc

© John Singletary | Anahata

Anahata is a multidisciplinary photography-based project in which John Singletary worked with a group of other artists including dancers, costume designers, makeup artists, choreographers, and technicians in the service of creating a series of elaborate photographs and video works. The pieces draw heavily on mythology, Jungian archetypal symbolism, shamanic ritual, some of the aesthetic sensibilities of renaissance and baroque painting, as well as elements of African, Ionian, and tribal art.    

“While I was already an established and exhibiting photographer at the time, this project took me way out of my comfort zone and I think I speak for most everyone involved in saying this. I’d had plenty of experience working as a studio photographer and long prior realized that my most valuable contributions to photography were made in a controlled setting. By expressing my ideas through carefully planned scenes as opposed to going out into the world with a camera and searching for subject matter that resonated with me. However, in the early stages of this project it was all a huge experiment, a methodically planned one but an experiment nonetheless. I think that the fact that we all collectively understood this afforded a certain degree of freedom and permission to ‘play’ that allowed for something special to happen.”

© John Singletary | Anahata


Human relations

Sanskrit for "unhurt" or "unbroken", the word Anahata corresponds to the energy of the heart, the "unstruck sound", and a harmonic resonance with the celestial realm. Thematically, Anahata deals with human relationships in the broader sense of the word. These could be romantic, familial, platonic, even one’s relationship with oneself, one’s internal world, spiritual or religious beliefs, connection to a power greater than themselves, to divinity in its many forms and manifestations.

John Singletary: “The phenomenon of being born into this world without a choice in the matter is something that I find to be inherently sacred, blissful at times, deeply sad and horribly confusing simultaneously. One of the most terrifying aspects of this is that it is truly up to us where we choose to place our faith, to what we ascribe value and meaning. Since the beginning of the human species to the present day we have been creating stories, mythologies, searching for answers, a way to feel maybe a little less alone.”

 

Ideological boxes  

According to Singletary, we have developed a potentially destructive freedom to place ourselves into neatly defined ideological boxes. “This can be on a basis of race, gender identity, religion, politics, education, socio-economic status and so forth. While I’m not naive about how real and different our experiences of life can be, I do believe that underlying all of this is a core of deep and innate humanity that connects us and that this force is more powerful than the factors that divide, the feeling that there is a unity of consciousness and oneness that is truly shared, a place that we can glimpse in our own unique ways, through music, prayer, dance, devotion, making love, dreams, and silence. This work is an expression of what that place feels like for me. This kind of thing is extremely hard to talk about and I usually don’t, as I have my own personal interpretation of the narratives within the work, I want to leave room for the viewer to find themselves and their own stories in the imagery.”            

John Singletary | Anahata


Inspiration

The exact origin of his inspiration Singletary finds hard to pinpoint. “I feel it was more a culmination of life experiences that I found simultaneously challenging to articulate and impossible to ignore or look away from and I knew I had something that was personally important for me to express. That being said, at the time it honestly wasn’t fully clear exactly what that was so I just started sketching and letting the ideas take me where they would without a predetermined destination or conceptual end point. I feel like there are many ways of making art that can be equally valid. One is very cerebral, starting with a clear and concise concept and working to find the most eloquent way and compelling way to express this within a given medium. I work much more from a place of unfiltered emotion and instinct. Many times, images or ideas would hit me almost fully formed at unpredictable moments and it would be a process of distillation.”

© John Singletary | Anahata


Special studio

Singletary started by constructing a studio designed specifically for this project in a beautiful but deteriorating old Victorian-style home in Philadelphia. “It had this ghostly, haunted energy about it and that turned out to be quite an appropriate setting for what we were about to do in a way that seemed almost fated. It was a beautiful mess, we lined the walls and floor with black velvet to produce the deep blacks in the images, the ceiling was a cacophony of wires and carefully positioned strobes on a radio trigger system, however, the key element was use of UV light. I shot with a Nikon D-800 which was modified to expand its spectral sensitivity and used a complex system of filtration to achieve the unique, ghostly appearance of some of the images, which was a product of the process and not digital manipulation.”

© John Singletary | Anahata


Surreal

“The sessions themselves were a bizarre and surreal experience, which was almost a work of performance art in its own right. It felt otherworldly, we shot in total darkness except for a thin ambient wash of UV haze, everything was glowing with this seemingly bio-luminescent radiance and given that we were isolated in this environment without reference to the outside world, it was easy to lose all sense of time so some of the shoots lasted upwards of sixteen hours. While it was both a demanding and exhausting process, the space and atmosphere were so energetically charged that it didn’t matter and, in retrospect, I feel that this disconnect from reference to day to day reality gave all of us, especially the dancers, a feeling of internal permission to express ourselves in a free and uninhibited way.”

© John Singletary | Anahata


OLED

The work is presented on synchronized arrays of OLED panels in a darkened environment in which the walls are lined with black felt. “Images materialize from and recede into darkness on timed loops alongside original music composed in a collaboration between myself and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist, Matt Hollberg. Amber Maldstadt and I also worked together in introducing a live dance element at openings that is sort of a slow, unfolding performance piece that adds almost a meta-layer to the experience. The installation form of presentation is compelling for me and aims to create a meditative, reflective space, a refuge from the often-chaotic nature of the outside world, luminous and charged with a similar energy as a church or sanctuary.”

John Singletary feels attracted to this technology because of its ability for artistic expression in the context of this work. “The panels glow with the warmth of a split sepia/selenium toned silver print and do not in their appearance reference television, which would be quite antithetical to the thematic content of the work. The idea of light is very important to this series from a metaphoric standpoint, it’s aesthetically the most impactful mode of presentation. Given the intensity of the studio process, an exhibition of purely traditional prints could only have felt anti-climactic. I do also make pigment prints of this series, but I find that while a print offers a window into a world, with an installation I get to create that world which is far more exciting.”

Learning to be still

John Singletary does not believe in the old-fashioned notion of the suffering of the artist and the romanticizing of tragedy, but he does find a meditative approach to his work as an artist more appropriate. “Making art can be an essential therapeutic outlet for one's angst and turmoil, it has been for me at times, however, this often-perpetuated glorification is a dangerous fiction and the truth of the matter is that instability or being strung out never made anyone better. In my view, learning to be still, to listen, to develop a sense of quiet and attunement is important. Making work is a sacred thing, because everything matters a little more than we might allow ourselves to consider.”


https://www.johnsingletaryimaging.com/


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