Column

1 Image 1 Minute

Chas Bowie, Carole Ann Klonarides
Organized by Micol Hebron
Bill Thomas, "Rats and Syringes," 1992.

Bill Thomas, Rats and Syringes, 1992.

In his suicide self-portraits of the 1990s, Bill Thomas offers himself willingly to Death, on the condition that the Reaper travel a humiliating road to meet him. The photographer calmly awaits the Horesemen in absurdly convoluted yet entirely functional deathtraps of his own creation.

Thomas cheats Death every time, of course, thanks to last-minute interceptions from the immortalizing power of photography. With a well-timed squeeze on his cable release, Thomas is captured by his camera, sequestered to a literally death-defying, eternal existence on photography’s metaphysical plane of suspended animation.

In Rats and Syringes, Thomas acknowledges his pact with photography directly: when the rats on his lap find the cheese on their traps (inadvertent triple suicide!), two syringes filled with a common darkroom chemical, potassium ferricyanide, will plunge into his arms, killing the photographer instantly. Suicide a la Kodak.

But Thomas is again playing Lucy van Pelt to Death’s Charlie Brown, here with a twist. Promising not to yank the football away this time, he even offers Death a special handicap: one of photography’s own alchemical potions to use against him.

Eyes locked on its target, Death charges the ball.

Chas Bowie, Writer