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David Seltzer

Knowledge of the Raw is a selection of photographs that Seltzer has taken over the course of his life in an almost diary like style. Often graphic, personal, up close; the images deal with issues and questions that pass through the conscious or subconscious mind, if only fleetingly. Seltzer's work is more stream of consciousness than documentary. More often than not, years may pass before Seltzer "finishes" an image. With the passage of time comes a fresher, and frequently more complicated perspective of what the initial "shot" may have brought to mind. At this point, an image that may have lain dormant for years is triggered back to life by a passing memory, dream, sound, smell, or the patter of rain falling on a city street. When the image is again brought to the top of the "active" pile, the image is reworked in order to incorporate its newly found perspective. This reworking consists of scratching, writing, etching the negative itself, or using a variety of media applied to the print; hand applied toners, paint, ink, wine, coffee, pencils, charcoal. In Eric Fischl's foreword for this book, Fischl concludes; "As promised in his title Knowledge of the Raw, Seltzer does not soften the blows. One feels the full weight of the dramas in his life, grasping, catching, holding on and then, sadly, the loosening grip. The effect of this slippage is heartbreak. These powerful works are the result of a protracted conversation he has been having with himself about women, about God, about the bending and breaking of the soul, about the loneliness and isolation of aging , and about weather." Miles Barth, the founding curator at The International Center for Photography, refers to Seltzer's modus operandi: "Seltzer holds the camera to his own life the way someone attempting suicide might point a gun to his head...Seltzer is not afraid to expose a raw nerve. The situations in his photographs dwell on emotions not often recorded and memories not often retained. They are part documentary, part the author's not so subtle commentary." From the exhibition catalogue, Slipping Man (Cygnet Foundation), Professor John Fergus Jean expands on Seltzer's work: "Seltzer's images are like peripheral visions from the high wire. They tell of gravity-the constant attraction of bodies in space, spontaneous confrontations in his life, equilibrium, and surviving. In this respect, as in electricity, the difference between polarities determines potential energy; and in Seltzer's work the psychic distance between slipping and desolation is enormous."
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About the Author

David Seltzer was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Having received a degree in English and Psychology at the University of Missouri, Seltzer became interested in teaching himself photography. In 1973 he moved to New York City to be closer to what he perceived as the center of the photography world. Working as a taxi cab driver, Seltzer sought an assistant's job with Richard Avedon and Arnold Newman; but the artistic milieu of his downtown meeting with Ralph Gibson galvanized him into pursuing photography as a fine art rather than as a commercial career. Over the years, Gibson's support and influence has never wavered. In 1987 and again in 1990, just prior to retiring from The Museum of Modern Art, the legendary curator, John Szarkowski, purchased two of Seltzer's large scale works for the Museum's permanent collection. Seltzer's work is included in numerous public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, the International Center for Photography, the Norton Museum of Art, The Center for Creative Photography, the Denver art Museum.

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