Pittsburgh, 1970s


While at university one of my philosophy professors wrote a book entitled God or Ichabod. His writings on nihilism have particularly impressed me to this day.

He divided nihilists into two groups — poetic and destructive. The example he used to distinguish the two was as follows: Two men are in the middle of the ocean in a small row boat. Land is nowhere to be seen. Unexpectedly, in various parts of the boat leaks begin to appear. On board there is nothing they can use to physically repair the leaks. The poetic nihilist uses what time is left to him to reflect on the beauty of the vastness of the ocean and the blueness of the sky. In the face of his tragedy he searches for a sense of personal peace. The destructive nihilist in the meantime finds a hammer and begins punching vast holes in the bottom of the boat.

The boat can be seen as our planet, and the two reactions are extremes of human behavior we tend to fall into when faced with life’s challenges.

My attempts in photography are a reflection on the beauty of being human, despite the tragedies which assail us daily. I do not turn my back on our tragedies; I am very much aware of them. I wonder if we will ever learn to exalt our more noble aspects as humans?

I believe we need to encourage a respect for life; maybe it is time we learn to emphasize an appreciation for the simplistic beauty of our existence on earth. I hope we can all find solace in those qualities which exalt love for life, rather than create destructive paths.

I hope we can all find solace in those qualities which exalt love for life, rather than create destructive paths.

— Karl F. Stewart

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