Jason Reimer: Excavations

A Journey Through Loss

Published on 12/28/ 2022

Thirteen Conjectures Concerning a "Personal Apocalypse"
Douglas McCulloh

001 “A journal of a personal apocalypse.” That was Jason Paul Reimer’s working subtitle as this project took shape. Contemporary photographs are less a means of documentation than a medium of exchange. Reimer is clearly a relentless and wide-ranging gatherer of images. But he operates from a more profound realization: the most cutting photographs are particular and private.

He bypasses what is now a worldwide flow of broad tropes—inaugurations and celebrities, photogenic shocks and picturesque massacres—to concentrate on collecting sharp- edged fragments of the specific and personal.

002 This project is, at its core, a psychological and existential journey. It centers on a thinking, acting, feeling individual and his lived experience. Consequently, it questions life’s purpose in the face of an often cryptic, meaningless, absurd world. But none of this is an abstraction. It’s the personal struggle of one person: Jason Paul Reimer. We’re fortunate; he invites us along. 

003 Jason Reimer had an older sister, Amanda. She is the inspiration for this book and became its touchstone. Amanda was born on November 9, 1967, and died of cancer on July 8, 2014. She saw the photographs and watched the project evolve but did not have a chance to hold the book. Photographs depicting Amanda slowly drifted out of the project, but she is between every line, just off the edge of every frame. 

004 “One thing that struck me very early is that you don’t put into a photograph what’s going to come out. Or, vice versa, what comes out is not what you put in.”
—Diane Arbus, photographer 

005 The artist regards his photographs as “open containers.” He provides the container, you pour in the meaning. His job is not to create meaning, but to charge the air so meaning can occur. Meaning is a hybrid construction: narrative convention; the iconic, psychological space; graphic signaling. Ultimately, of course, what we find in the photographs is what we are. 

006 Jason Reimer is haunted by memory, and for him, as with most in our society, memory demands an image. He gathers moments that are like spirits chased by memory. He offers us paired color prints showing unknown children (plus a ruler to measure them with). What does the clear twisted bag contain: clothes or creatures? Taut white cord outlines an excavation transect on a sun-blasted hillside. There is always a snake in the grass. The photographs feel like poetry, fetishes, fairy tales, inner melodies. The artist works to make sense of the suffering and joy and journey before it all ends. 

007 “One has the impression that something is stirring inside [photographs]—it is as if one can hear little cries of despair, gémissements de désespoir... as if the photographs themselves had a memory and were remembering us and how we, the surviving, and those who preceded us, once were.”
W.G. Sebald, writer 

008 The duality of light and shadow is like that of life and death. We are fleeting moments in a floating world. Photographs are in league with death. Cameras save the moment, but not the person. Stare into a camera and you look into mortality. “Photographs state the innocence, the vulnerability of lives heading toward their own destruction,” states Susan Sontag, “and this link between photography and death haunts all photographs of people.” 

Read the rest of Douglas McCulloh's essay, Thirteen Conjectures Concerning a “Personal Apocalypse” in Jason Reimer's Excavations: A Journey Through Loss

Jason Reimer

Jason Paul Reimer is an internationally exhibited artist and educator based in southern California.