The Imperfect Atlas

In his newest series, Imperfect Atlas, Funch addresses time and its passage on multiple levels: the spatiotemporal change of a landscape,the reimagined wilderness captured in three distinct moments transposed as one, and historical narratives on the brink of both rediscovery and reinvention. The project features images captured during Funch’s multiple trips to the Northern Cascade Mountain Range during the period of 2014-2016, mostly contemporary recreations of vintage Mt. Baker postcards he discovered during his research. Using these ephemera, maps, and satellite images, Funch was able to locate positions where the original postcard images were made, re-capturing the mountain’s glaciers from the same positions to create comparative juxtapositions of ‘then and now.’

Evocative of the 19th century imagery of the Hudson River School and ideals of Manifest Destiny, the Western mountain ranges in appear picturesque, idealistic and untamed through Funch’s lens. Funch uses this as an aesthetic point of departure, expanding the idea of re-photography through the use RGB tricolor separation, a technique invented also dating to the 19th century and the period of the Industrial Revolution. However the current glacial recession predates the use of color photography: the recession dates to 1850, while tricolor projection became the standard in the following decade. With this timeline in mind, we can say that Man’s photographic representation of glaciers has always included a state of decline. In a contemporary context, Funch’s use of RGB filters add a human influence where we would otherwise not clearly notice its affect on the landscape, inciting a dialogue on man’s influence on nature, or as Funch describes, “our blindness to the consequences we are creating.”

The amassed memorabilia accompanying the images creates parallel narratives for both the photographer and viewer, stories that may or may not be true, and whose presence Funch carefully curates. The viewer fills in the gaps, forging connections with transparent subjectivity, creating a sense of imagined nostalgia. Paired with the reimagining of temporality through photographic techniques, a process present in much of Funch’s oeuvre, the photographs speak to the human desire to control not only nature—but time itself—and to the failure inherent in such a desire.

An imperfect archive-in-the-making, the series fails to document in the traditional sense. Any objective comparison between the past and present is obscured, creating a continuum between intent and effect. When viewed in light of the climate change, Funch’s images inherently occupy a meaning greater than the sheer power and vastness of the land. Their beauty connotes a solemn reminder to a future and progeny that may not have the same nature to witness, explore, and capture. Yet here they stand as an experiment in the ephemeral, evoking the words of philosopher Virilio: “{images} owe their existence to the fact that they disappear.”

Sabrina Tamar 2016