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James Cagle

archival pigment print

24" x 24"

A mysterious human shadow falls across an empty expanse of light-soaked terrain in this otherwise serene image in the realm of photography and cinema, shadows are often used for dramatic effect, suggesting a negative presence or even foreshadowing death. In Semblance, however, the soft outline of the body and the luminosity of the surrounding environment complicate our reading of the photograph, which feels simultaneously foreboding and tranquil. The underlying meaning of this work only emerges once we learn that it is the artist’s self-portrait.

Aware of his terminal illness, Cagle—in a move that can only be described as symbolic—captured this image of his shadow during a trip to Death Valley. He presented this photograph to his wife, Kathy, as one of his final gifts to her. A fleeting moment in the sun, this photograph is a poignant reminder of the beauty and transience of life.


Gift from Katherine McCabe-Cagle in memory of Jim Cagle