Linda Connor – Odyssey


Copyright Linda Connor, 2008, courtesy of Chronicle Books and Joseph Bellows Gallery; Astrophotograph, copyright of the Regents of California, the Lick Observatory Plate Archive

In Homer’s Odyssey, an early Greek poem, Odysseus is on an epic journey and encounters endless trials and tribulations during the ten years it takes for him to reach his home. Odysseus was not only trying to reach his home during his struggle to re-establish himself, but was also on a search for his inner self. The poem itself is also noted for having a non-linear plot, starting with events in the middle of the story with flashbacks as the story unfolds.

Linda Connor’s book Odyssey is also about a search, in her case, the object she is seeking are sacred places, where there may exist the presence of a universal force. And like Odysseus, this personal pursuit for this elusive subject has taken Conner on a global journey, and the search for something elusive as a sacred place is not unlike the search for one’s self

Her photographic content is as much about capturing a sense of mediation as the images could be a source of mediation and reflection. Connor captures multi-cultural, multi-religious ceremony, rites, sites, places, events, those who might lead the way or help provide the truth, and guides to eternity.  Odysseus also had to use subterfuge, secrecy, hiding, disguises and cunning during his struggle and pursuit, so likewise, things are not always what they appear.

In attempting to capture the essence of sacred places, she also has to confront religious places and practices, which are equally elusive. Thus her photographs are loaded with traces of the unseen, transcendental moments, beliefs of the deities and the greater mysteries that lay just beyond our comprehension.

I could not help but notice that a lot of time was spent in editing this book, as I sense some very strong pairing of images as they face each other across the spread. The paired photographs play off each other, reinforcing the content with repetitive designs, ideas and suggested thoughts. I have tried to provide a sense of the pairing with images that I selected from the book, below. Each photograph stands on its own very well, but in the context of the selected facing photograph, she truly achieves the tricky math of 1 + 1 = 3 & more.

She provides very complementary ideas and concepts with the context of paired photographs in her attempt to grasp these sacred sites and the potential meaning that extend well beyond of our ability to comprehend.  Such as the pairing of the nineteen century astrophotographs of the star studded sky, symbolic of the heavens, with the normal viewpoint of the sky through the trees. Then I notice that the patterns created by the stars are not unlike that of looking up at the sky through the trees. To link a difficult concept of infinity to something more attainable and comprehensible.

The sequencing of the photographs through the book are perhaps not as strong as the paired images, but it something that you may only notice somewhat later after the fact.

Her photographs are printed one large image per page, within out any edge bleeds or images straddling across the gutters, which makes them a pleasure to look at.  However, all of the photographs are printed on black pages, thus each photograph is surrounded by a rich, black margin. The black margins seem to effect how my eyes view the photographs on the page.  Although I think in this instance, it adds to the mystery of her images, with the photographs emerging out of darkness.  The effect is similar to the content of many of her images, an illuminating shaft of light emerging from the unknown.

So if like Odysseus, who was trying to reach home, was really trying to discover who he is, what then is Connor searching for within these scared sites?  We are left with only some really tantalizing clues in this beautiful illustrated book.

The hardcover book, with dustcover, is of a nice size of 12 1/4 x 11 1/2 to provide nicely illustrated photographs, with an enlightening two part afterward, an informative conversational discussion by Linda Connor with Robert Adams and Emmet Gowin. There is also an essay by William L. Fox.


Plate46-Oct-13-1893   Plate47_O-hai

Plate58-vieled_woman   plate61_Funerary_Cloths

Plate139_from_Monastery_Roof   Plate139-Monks_watching-festival


By Douglas Stockdale

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