The project that became the book Seattle Subtext began as a response to how I perceived photographs as functioning visual objects. Photographs are seldom reclusive or solitary; they most often gather in groups along with their uneasy ally, text.Together, they are the cohabiters of the most common "picture" of all, the printed page, where photographs, texts and graphics cluster and recombine.
My work began with this arena of the printed page as a format and a context.The work was originally a wall piece composed of twenty-two “double-page spreads”, each one a 19”x24” b&w silver gelatin print composed of many complex multiple printings in the darkroom.These “opened book” simulations were printed in the 11”x17” format size of a standard magazine, and as such were “camera-ready” when the Seattle Subtext Series (1981-82) was printed as a book at VSW Press in 1984.
While the "shape" of the 22 double page spreads in Seattle Subtext invokes the magazine double-page spread, it departs from it in the following ways:(1) Columns of text have been replaced by columns of overlapped television imagery;(2) The topics of the pages shift from the normal magazine section headlines ("Nation," "Show Business") to more generalized, fictionalized or personalized areas ("Writing," "Memory");(3) The visual cadence of the imagery becomes more akin to film, television, or computer display than to the mass distribution magazine; and(4) Pages labeled "Display", which occur in between the major topic sections contain annotated versions of the pages that both precede and follow them, creating image/text echoes and refrains from the “database” that the major topic sections are drawn from.This work was my first project that involved the use of the computer.It was used to both manage the visual database of imagery (in a program I wrote myself), and to supply imagery in the form of database listings and graphic maps that dominate the “Display” pages.
Seattle Subtext is an imaginary and reordered magazine.By drawing on the conventions of "layout," it becomes possible to construct complex relationships among still photographs and television imagery, typeset captions and computer text.These relationships posit a personalized environment of great density and simultaneity in a format usually thought of as fixed and given (the magazine), and anticipates the eventual domination by the format that comes to maturity some 10-15 years later: the World Wide Web.