“The Fortress Walls Whispered Back” by Ralph Maratta | Awards Collective GalleryTalk
The Awards Collective was created to feature the works of artist who have received either a Juror’s Award or Director’s Award in ASG’s Online exhibitions. Ralph Maratta’s image “Still A Girl“ received the Director’s Award in the “common objects” exhibition juried by Doug Beasley. Ralph’s exhibition “The Fortress Walls Whispered Back” is discussed in this GalleryTalk.
“The Fortress Walls Whispered Back” is a short story of sorts. I created my own story around the Fort and then photographically reacted to it. In this sense, the images are a loose narrative. I feel good about the final photographs, but the most compelling part was the process. As trite as it sounds, I’ve learned to let go when my attempts hit a wall or start to fail. Instead of getting discouraged, I just roll my eyes and think, “Okay, here we go.”
In my work, there is a common curve of initial excitement, testing, lots of failures, stubborn persistence, and then, before all seems lost, a small epiphany that carries me to the end. What made the Fortress portfolio exciting to make was that I was very aware of the project phases I was in and was confident that, ultimately, the subject matter would reveal itself. And it did.
Fort Worden State Park lies at the northeast tip of the Olympic Peninsula. Overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Fort was constructed between 1898 and 1920 with the intention of protecting the Puget Sound Region from any would-be seafaring enemies. The dilapidating concrete structure, graffitied, eroding, and molded from the sea air, attracts visitors every day who walk through its many dark and hollow rooms. After testing different formats and films, I settled on my Hasselblad camera with Ektar 100 color negative. I’ll rely on drum scanning those negatives if I need to produce very large-sized prints. As I started to shoot, I knew there was an opportunity for great design and abstraction, but that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to get to the root of what was exciting me, what my story would be.
After a few failed photo sessions and another lackluster day of shooting, I, more or less, waved a white flag in defeat. But I hung out, sat with my dog, looked at the Fort, and enjoyed its presence on the beach cliff. I began to look at the Fort without photographs in mind and personified the Fort as this ancient character that saw so many people, stories, and years pass through its halls. Although the Fort was never attacked, in my story, I imagined it was. I thought of it as a living entity and how it responded in a most unlikely way. Then the words came to me, “the fortress walls whispered back.” I imagined the idea of the Fort under attack, only to gently whisper back and defeat its enemy. From that instant on, I was seeing things I hadn’t seen several times before, and it was just a matter of now collecting images.
“The Fortress Walls Whispered Back” is a mix of my emotions and reaction to the growing tide of nationalism across the globe. From nationalism, ideas and sentiments have risen that adopt the notion that we are all separate from one another versus the connectivity between all living things and the planet. Nationalism promotes winning without consequences and defines success as constantly getting more for oneself despite costs to the greater whole. It pits people, towns, families, states, and countries against one another as it feasts on fear.
The Fort structure simply became the perfect character to tell the parables of turning the other cheek, not going eye for eye, and that love and truth prevail.
Ralph Maratta, December, 2023
Ralph Maratta, who works under the name 2Worlds, works in film (large, medium, and small format) and digital capture. Reared in the darkroom, he is skilled in printmaking. “In the darkroom, I sort of transform and become laser-focused, slower, methodical, retentive, over-demanding, and a perfectionist – all of the things I’m not in daily life,” he says. He also works in specialized digital workflows and processes that include carbon-based pigment inks.
Music influences his photography most, citing, “It’s all there; tonal scale, contrast, brightness, darkness, rhythm, melody and counterpoint.” The nature of aesthetics intrigues him most as he thinks aesthetic experiences can connect us to something universal, like a collective unconscious. “I can work in different subject matters, styles, and photographic mediums, but running through all my imagery are ideas on the connectivity of all living things, the potential of empty space, differing realities in any given moment, and the merging of very old and new ideas.”
Photography, for Maratta, is a personal responsibility, a labor of love of sorts.
“Everybody has a core purpose or passion to unearth, and photography happens to be mine. There is a Japanese word, “ikigai,” that refers to a passion that gives value and joy to life, and when we pursue and participate in our core passions, it becomes a form of meditation,” says Maratta. “It can be anything: art, golf, basketball, stamp collecting, knitting, business, woodworking, writing, crafting, etc. The trick is finding one’s ikigai and keeping at it despite whatever stuff the world throws at you. It’s a sort of battle sometimes, but the opportunity to work things out is what makes life so precious.
Whether through his photography or what he seeks in others’ creative work, Maratta looks for clues. “I think all the answers we need are all around us, all the time. Sometimes in more literal ways and often in abstract ways that often play out like intuition — a muscle that grows with continued use. As a photographer and viewer of many things, I depend on art for signposts along the way (of life),” he concludes.
Maratta has been featured in several one-person shows and published in a variety of online publications.