Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

Negatives and the Importance of Perspective

Nov 26, 2018 - Alex Christopher Williams

John Henry is an American folk hero that, while mostly unknown to the general public, he does show up in a few songs, most notably by Songs: Ohia. A statue in Talcott, West Virginia commemorates his memory as being the man who challenged a steam-powered machine to a race to dig a train tunnel. He died as a result of the race due to his heart giving to stress. I traveled to Big Bend Tunnel to photograph a statue of John Henry, in part, due to my fascination with a man who was so confident in his strength that he would challenge a machine and then win. But his story has lived long after his death because of the obvious metaphors that can be pulled from his story.


There’s something interesting that happens when you forcibly skew the perspective of a photograph by displaying it as a negative. I am particularly interested in how John Henry, who was black, is represented as white. I am also interested in how it shares a lot of qualities with the aesthetics of x-rays. The negative image strips the steel sculpture of its bold strength and, instead, displays it as a glass sculpture where his masculinity is fragile and vulnerable.