These photographs are from a body of work titled “Through the Static and Distance” that I made during my residency at the Roswell (NM) Artist-in-Residence program in 2019-2020.
Any purpose humans impose on the land leaves a mark which may be overt, or faintly shows a past narrative. These signs/signals inhabit our everyday world, where collectively they can take on the qualities of a dream or myth.
Buddhist teaching describes the three marks of existence: impermanence, imperfection and emptiness. These characteristics are ubiquitous in the high plains landscape of New Mexico. There are also the physical marks of existence: bullet-riddled cans, animal skeletons, glass shards – objects which once accompanied life are what remains.
Atoms are composed almost entirely of space. The weight of an average cloud passing overhead is a million pounds yet seems weightless.
The Roswell area I’ve come to know in my explorations over the last nine months has become, for me, a storied landscape. Under an enormous sky abundant with weather and atmosphere, my wanderings have registered a kind of synapse between the traces of human existence and the realm of natural phenomena.
A photograph has a frequency. We can understand the signal on some level when we feel the resonance of an image. Photography is also a means of collecting: Flocks of birds perforating the sky; a car hood with a constellation of holes shot through it; posts standing in formation framing earth and sky; the patina on a corrugated metal facade; Capitan Peak always in the distance, shrouded by weather and endless sky.
Tonee Harbert has worked as a photojournalist, a fine art and documentary photographer. His photographs have been exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Portland Museum of Art, Farnsworth Art Museum, Danforth Museum of Art, University of Miami, ICA at Maine College of Art, and the Center for Maine Contemporary Art. He’s been awarded a New England Emmy award and his photographs have been included in the motion pictures Home Less Home (independent) and Message in a Bottle (Warner Brothers). Harbert received a degree in Visual Communication from Ohio University in 1986.
Harbert has completed projects related to social issues surrounding poverty and homelessness in Appalachian Ohio and Washington DC, documented the carnival atmosphere of President George Bush’s “Summer White House” in Kennebunkport, Maine and completed an extensive multi-part project on the rustic and rural life of a Maine hermit. This work was exhibited as a photographic/sculptural installation, published as a book Elmer Walker: Hermit to Hero which was co-authored with writer Carolyn Chute and the exhibition was featured on CBS Sunday Morning. Harbert has contributed to other photography books, including Maine: A Peopled Landscape, and Homeless in America, and he has received grants from Nikon, the Maine Arts Commission, and the Maine Community Foundation.
Tonee currently lives with his partner, Shoshannah White, in Roswell, New Mexico, where he was recently granted a year-long artist residency at the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program.