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Liminal Traces and Spaces: Photography by Eric Laverty

Unfolding beyond the borders of classic, single-frame image capture, my recent photography explores unique and sometimes novel scanning, panorama, and video sequencing techniques that position my action and interaction as the focus of extended, transitional 'performances'. As my body becomes both subject and medium, the extended duration/prolongation of my process fixes time, momentum, gesture, agency, and memory on the image sensor with a dynamic, contemporary cadence.

Fusing performance, street selfie-ism, and new approaches to time-lapse and stop-action photography, I assert my physicality with sweeping, uninterrupted panoramic gestures, grazing sidewalks, signposts, walls, staircases, subways, trees, forests, parks, and beaches. No longer a disembodied voyeur, I interject my present(s)/presence directly in the scene, as part of a performance that captures a broader spectrum of action and information.

Though reminiscent of the pioneering movement studies of Eadweard Muybridge, the kinetic investigations of Etienne-Jules Marey, and the topographical scans of Andreas Gefeller, I diverge from their precise, didactic methodologies. Instead, with my shutter open to spontaneity, chance, and improvisation, I weave an expressionistic narrative more akin to Xavi Bou’s Ornithographies that enmeshes vestiges of my present(s)/presence with the surrounding environment and terrain underfoot revealing the liminal trails and spaces that often escape human perception.

Stairmaster @ Almira Kennedy Coursey Amphitheatre, Brooklyn (2024)


Eric Laverty (b. 1965, Detroit. MI) studied Painting with Gerhard Richter at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Germany (1991-93); Photography with Jim Dow at SFMA-Boston (1987-89); and Anthropology during his undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (1983-87).

Laverty lives and works in both Brooklyn and Detroit. His photography, collage and painting have been exhibited in Boston, Düsseldorf, New York, and Brussels and are in private collections in the United States, Europe, and Japan.

Throughout his artistic and commercial photography career, Laverty has focused on architectural motifs and the built environment, coining the term Structural Catabolism to better describe his perspective and process. Catabolism is a concept from biology describing the breakdown of organic material during the metabolic process. In the context of the built environment, Laverty used it first to describe the awe-inspiring processes involved in demolition while he was documenting the adaptive reuse of historic structures in New York and the surrounding region.

In Laverty’s words, “Structural Catabolism bears witness to industrial transition, capturing the realignment of material and energy before it settles, reconfigured for the future. A process driven by contemporary motivation, characters, and technologies that resuscitate historic structures from their abandoned, decaying, or otherwise antiquated states”. He continues, “… it is only through re-engagement that the remarkable nature of these once vital structures is revealed again, and Structural Catabolism begins, inspiring a fleeting cast of shadows in its wake.”

While he continues this exploration, he does so with a twist, challenging his artistic assumptions, spatial awareness, and cultural impact by creating new frameworks to extend and redefine the picture frame. He emphasizes abstraction and the formal elements of shape, line, color, and form while embracing movement, spontaneity, and improvisation to shift and jostle perception.

Structural Catabolism remains an umbrella term for his photographic explorations as he deconstructs the traditional structures and norms within the medium, breaking from conventional techniques and styles, deconstructing and reassembling elements of a composition, and challenging established ideas in the field.

As Laverty ventured out into the pandemic-emptied streets of 2020-21, he began questioning the influence of subject matter and process in his photography. With far fewer distractions, the streets revealed previously overlooked or uninteresting elements of the built environment. He viewed crosswalk stripes, street signage, bike paths, debris containment fields, and safety barriers as equally valid elements in his compositions as the structures he had been photographing. Inspired by his 2016-18 "Undercarriages Series" and the motivations behind the upturned paintings of Georg Baselitz, Laverty turned his images upside down, freeing the shapes, colors, and forms from their representational and recognizable conventions. This shift allowed him to invite comparison to the disorienting nature of the pandemic, but more importantly, helped him address his growing dissatisfaction with his current approach to image-making.

The frequency of his peregrinations and bike excursions throughout NYC and the region during this time prompted a need for greater flexibility and immediacy in his process. Laverty spent so much time hopping on and off his 1976 Schwinn Continental to unpack, photograph, repack, and continue forth that his iPhone, once used occasionally alongside his more cumbersome 35mm system, became his preferred capture tool. This shift opened new possibilities for Laverty, allowing him to explore panoramic settings that he could only partially replicate during post-processing.

Since his years at the SMFA-Boston, Laverty has been extending his picture frame with panoramic techniques, primarily for producing large-scale prints. He physically stitched, glued, and taped his prints and Xerox copies together. In the late 80s, artists like David Hockney, photographers like the Starn Twins, and Laverty himself demonstrated that these manipulations could be artful, genre-bending keys to interpreting and presenting subject matter.

Laverty’s interest has never been primarily about fragmentation, nor is his practice currently about constructing assemblages with painting, objects, and fasteners like his early experimentations. As he continues to employ stitching techniques as necessary in Photoshop, his images remain solely in the realm of photography placing him in a much more intense dialogue with imaging technologies, laying bare the decisions and limitations of both his and of the technology he chooses to employ. His process cuts, slices, rips, and curls; fragments, twists, straightens, and unfurls, in-camera with limited post-capture editing beyond what transpires on the image sensor.

Laverty’s predominantly in-camera manipulations push the boundaries of what the camera sensor can process, producing distorted, flattened, or flayed images that differ markedly from traditional, time-lapse, or video techniques. The resulting images are playful, disarming, and at times, disorienting- yet are still, in their own way, records of the environment that envelops us all.

Manspreading: Radical Act of a CISSY (2024)


Eric P. Laverty





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Eric Laverty Photography    
Photo courtesy Estate of Dolores T. Laverty

Copyright © 1992-2024 Eric P. Laverty. All rights reserved. @thecatabolist