Backscatter: Between Here and There
by Tom Young
with an essay by John Rohrbach
Tom Young's amazing sequel to Timeline: Learning to See with My Eyes Closed is something to behold, as the artist explores and imagines the spaces that have shaped our evolutionary past and direct us to an uncertain future.
Backscatter is the reflection of particles, waves, or signals back to the direction from which they came: in underwater photography, back to the lens. The reflection, however, is diffuse, as opposed to clear like a mirror, thus softening images and even making them obscure.
For this book, Tom Young has embraced backscatter as both subject and metaphor to render spaces below and above the water's surface—between here and there—in highly original ways. Our senses are awakened as Young creates images that evoke an evolutionary path from sea to land, that speak of a global environment increasingly threatened by human action, and that enlighten our consciousness with an abiding spirit larger than ourselves.
In Young's previous book, the masterful Timeline: Learning to See with My Eyes Closed, the artist was drawn to the way multiple images can be assembled into a single photographic plate that both alters the intent and enhances the meaning of the individual images. Young has followed that same path in Backscatter, as the edge of one image is shared with the edge of another that simultaneously can fuse them into one voice or let them remain as separate voices, suggesting a deep conversation either way. As the sequence evolves, so, too, does the visual narrative whose assembly of diverse images presents unexpected relationships and an unforgettable storyline.
Metaphorically, Backscatter is about looking head on into a void where what lies above and below the water's surface can seem harmonious yet helter-skelter. As John Rohrbach observes in his afterword, this is a "ferocious book" that brings us to a myriad places, each one real and imagined, conveying an overall sense of the human journey through life.