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Artist Statement by Michael E.B. Detto

I was born in the city of Berlin, still surrounded by the ashes that were left in the wake of WWII. The clouds of tragedy informed my earliest memories, as both my father and my brother took their own lives and I was left grappling with the complicated feelings of guilt, loss and the desire to hold memories and put context to them. It was through my camera lens that I found a language in which to translate my emotions and feelings.

From early days, I was drawn to pictures as I felt that they encompassed not only the visual representations of a specific subject matter, but that there was an additional subtext, a language of sorts, that hinted to a larger collective story and a desired lasting memory put forth as an image.

I remember being haunted by black and white images of the Holocaust, and by Hieronymus Bosch paintings of hell and horror.

I have often felt that darkness is a familial, inherited trait.

My method is street photography; I use montage only for conceptual projects.
Through my work, I seek out compositions that explore the shadows, the margins, and the decay that often are borne out of guilt and neglect. The shadow does not represent nothing, it is for me more alive than its source. I explore reflections and the interplay of images and light on glass/ windows – which can bring new depth and perceptions to an existing perspective. I am deeply skeptical of the linear perspective, (which needs the shadow as a defining tool) therefore I explore imbalances, uncertainty in an image, and disturbance.

I often look for texts in the environment, aberrations, representations of an allegory.


I worked with Cibachrome in Germany and in Los Angeles, because I started with color transparency film. I switched later to Fujiflex Chromogenic C-Prints.

Since my first visit to the US in 1989, the camera gave me access to this new and
exciting visual tool, and it eventually led me to a new life.
I immigrated to America and became a citizen in 2004, choosing Los Angeles as my forever home. My work brings together the themes that motivate me: identity, loss, memory and the shadows that they cast both literally and figuratively.

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