Re:Collection: Robert Benjamin on Lawrence McFarland

Visitors to our website can now explore thousands of photographic works and objects from the Light Work Collection in a new online database that expands access of work by former Light Work artists to students, researchers, and online visitors. To coincide with the our new collection website launch, we’re introducing a series on our blog called Re:Collection, inviting artists and respected thinkers in the field to select a single image or object from the archive and offer a reflection as to its historical, technical, or personal significance.

Today we’re sharing a reflection on Lawrence McFarland’s Untitled image from Robert Benjamin, Lab member and 2014 Light Work artist-in-residence.

Special note: Robert Benjamin: River Walking is on view in the Kathleen O. Ellis Gallery March 18 – July 27, 2019

At times photographs can feel too substantial, anchored to the hard, physical realities of our world. Here, in McFarland’s beautiful photograph, even the road seems to evaporate into the almost weightless atmosphere. The black top and fence posts remain vague markers, while light and space emerge as the true subjects―as in a dream or vision.

I find myself wondering if Mr. McFarland has still to travel down this expanse to nowhere, or has he successfully and gratefully left the worst behind? The icy tire tracks don’t answer the question, only confirming a passage has occurred.

Of course, the happy news is that he made it home again, and has stopped long enough to hear the quiet, smell the snow, felt the small mystery―and brought it back for us to share.

Explore the Light Work Collection online at