Bruce McKaig has been making photographs for over thirty years, living and traveling in Europe, North and South America, Siberia, and India. His photography involves meticulous processes that often produce one-of-a-kind pieces, working with chance elements of surprise and exploring techniques as diverse as pinhole photography, ambient light images, stereo photography, hand colored images and digital animations. His photographs are in museum collections in the USA, France, and Guatemala. He has been awarded private and public grants from the city of Paris and Washington DC and has participated in over thirty solo and two hundred group exhibitions since 1979. He regularly lectures and writes on photography and teaches at The Smithsonian Residents, The Corcoran College of Art and Design, Georgetown University, and at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop in Washington D.C., where he currently lives. His website is www.brucemckaig.com.
Photography fascinates me because of how well it can show what something doesn’t look like. The slow emulsions of early photographic processes turn Paris and London into ghost towns, void of people and all transient activity: nothing to do with what either city ever looked like. Eddie Adams’ photograph of General Loan executing a man in Vietnam freezes the action after the bullet enters and before it exits the victim’s head. That bullet entered Nguyen Van Lem’s head nearly forty years ago and in Adam’s photograph, it still rests there: nothing to do with what the execution looked like. In my family’s vacation photos, we are all lined up shoulder-to-shoulder in front of some point of interest (or the station wagon): nothing to do with what the vacation was, solely how the vacation was photographed.
I am more curious to see what a photograph can be than what a photograph can be of, exploring direct and unrepeatable experiences. I am attracted to meticulous processes that embrace elements of chance surprise and usually produce one-of-a-kind results. I am trying to discover more than control and consider photography itself my principle subject matter. Most photographs successfully avoid the truth and fascinate me because their lies are so plausible. This is material photography, as in materialism: the theory that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and all being, processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations of matter.
Published in 2002, Lyle Rexer's book Photography's Antiquarian Avant-garde situates my work with other contemporary and historical photographers working in both mystical and material ways, "letting the chemistry of the emulsion register chance and time, turning Talbot's ‘pencil of nature’ into a paintbrush."