26 May 2020

Some Questions on Fear, Death, and Perception

26 May 2020 - Written by PhMuseum

American photographer David Steinberg captures several natural and scientific features of our universe, creating metaphorical imagery that looks to expose mankind's limitations in understanding the true nature of our surroundings.

Through photography, installation and book-making, my artistic practice focuses on fear and how fear is shaped by our ability or inability to consciously connect to the natural surroundings within the cosmos. Predominately drawn to a fear of death, this work ventures to locate and visually represent that sense of mental dread and return agency to objects and landscapes. Through revealing an allure towards knowledge and order of the objects we intend on controlling, I explore the limits of our perception and connection to the world in which we inhabit. I reference various image-making techniques, utilizing scientific imagery and phenomena, monuments, and historical artefacts. Utilizing portraiture, still-life scenes and landscapes, the objects presented are often decontextualized through framing, dimly lit scenes, and bold colours. Refraining from clear narratives, I create a web of connections by utilizing the indeterminacy that the photograph portrays to the viewer.

My project, entitled Ouroboros, is a photographic installation and book. The title refers to the ancient symbol of the snake eating its own tail and used more recently by cosmologists to explain the overarching makeup and interconnectedness of the universe. The work alludes to a connection between creation to destruction, and the colossal to the minuscule, and the cyclical nature of life. Connected in a nonlinear manner, I photograph common scientific objects, natural phenomena, astronomical observers, and anomalous landscapes, accentuating the paradox between beauty and dark uneasiness. The people in the work: observers, still and solitary, represent innocence, curiosity, cynicism, and act as proxies for the notion of existing in an organized world. Through the categorization of objects, landscapes and people, I explore the connections that exist between all objects, and the failure to see and witness the true nature of our surroundings. The vision of figures is consistently obstructed, and each object is portrayed in isolation. This is not to say that we cannot attempt to understand, but that we will never fully know or grasp the objects and ideas that surround everything.

Words and Pictures by David Steinberg.


David Steinberg is a photographer and artist living between New York City and Minnesota and currently working on long-term personal projects and editorials. He will earn is MFA in Art Photography from Syracuse University in 2020, and has shown work in London, New York, among others. Find him on PHmuseum and Instagram.


This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.

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3 minutes