In the early nineties I lived in a working class neighborhood in Providence, Rhode Island, which was surrounded by sprawling reaches of hard to define space. Old New England houses mingled with empty lots, crumbling husks of factories, tract houses, and a dizzying web of trees, weeds, cyclone fences, and high tension wires. Layers of growth and decay concealed any easy answers. While it could seem as if the landscape had been born of a simple mix of accident and neglect, the feeling was one of a larger process at work. I saw a kind of unconscious synergy in the acts of people, nature, and erosion that had shaped these spaces over many years. When I later moved to an industrial section of Brooklyn, New York, the mix of these elements changed, but the underlying feeling stayed the same. There was more to the garbage than garbage; more to the desolation than desolation.
I titled the work Wilderness early on, in response to these impressions.
The word has meant different things to different cultures over the years,
but it has usually carried senses of mystery, of darkness, and of an emergence
somewhere outside the borders of the comfortable and the known.
The Wilderness has been a place that we feared but at the same time longed for, often with a sense that only there, far from the safety and attachments of our everyday lives, might we finally find ourselves.
Paul Raphaelson's photographs reside in several public and private collections, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Paine Webber Corporate Collection, curated by John Szarkowski.
He is represented by Gallery Sink, in Denver, Colorado.