Along the Way

Words by Thaddeus O’Neil / Photography by Jack Pierson

He who sees cannot possess the visible unless he is possessed by it, unless he is of it, unless, by principle, according to what is required by the articulation of the look with the things, he is one of the visible, capable, by a singular reversal, of seeing them—he who is one of them.

~ Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible

I was in my early twenties living in Bondi Beach, Australia, working as a day laborer when I first encountered a collection of Jack’s photographs in a used book store on Hall Street. Called All of a Sudden, it was displayed behind glass in a locked cabinet, which only aggravated my desire. At least once a week I would ask a member of the staff to pull the blush-colored book with the blurry arms-length self-portrait of Jack on the cover from the case for me to pour over. When I finally bought it, it became a treasured talisman as I tried to become an artist.

Like a cat playing with a ball of string or anything else that fleetingly, flittingly comes purring into view, Jack’s purview is one of nomadic glances in constant motion, of roving luminousness. The glance dances over surfaces and yet the thing about the glance is that the glanced at glances back, revealing both their solitary confinement to a single point of view and their existential dependency on being viewed.

Which is to say: Jack’s pictures look back at you. Glances gliding adrift in a drifter’s world. A peach, a parrot, a shoe, a towel, or a pair of swim trunks drying on a fence; and roses, always roses, or gardenias and those perennial leitmotif ballasts against his native Boston: The palm tree, the cactus, the desert highway vista, the dazzled sea draped in cotton candy cloud—all in a phantasmagoric tie-dye orchestra of color. These photographs are the shadows cast by his glances looming out beyond the eyes’ initial register. With a cheap, poetic, romantic, playful, punning, loving glance he takes the world in… all at once and all of a sudden.

Those glances glance back at me. And they are never the end of the story, a sterile simulacrum, they are always only the beginning, or if it is an ending it is according to Sam Shepard: “The most authentic endings are the ones which are already revolving towards another beginning.” These glances of Jack’s are always already ricocheting off to another beginning and elsewhere. Just a glancing blow off to somewhere, someone, something else.

All of a sudden Jack’s glance surges forth, quick and quirky, it puts us in the world all at once. He who is one of them.