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Milieu Intérieur: Diary of a Recluse
Geoffrey Agrons

This series, a photography project roughly spanning 2011-2014, evolved during a period of personal and professional retrenchment and, I confess, mild agoraphobia. The title is an oblique homage to the French physiologist Claude Bernard, who coined the phrase Milieu Intérieur to refer to the protective stability provided to living organisms by the extra-cellular fluid environment. My pressing need to feel enclosed, sheltered, and consoled by life indoors was somewhat incongruous, since previously I had concentrated on landscape photography. At the same time, I had grown dissatisfied with my long exposure photographs made at the water’s edge, finding them overly derivative and sterile. I was eager to establish a photographic vocabulary of my own that felt honest, pared down, and free of artifice or mimicry. I began to make photographs that were informed by my immediate response to the quotidian, to observe the ordinary trappings of the environment within.

Our cat proved an unwitting role model. I noticed how she followed the play of sun light throughout our home as the day wore on. I was inspired, for instance, to reach for a camera when concentrated morning light illuminated the steam rising from breakfast eggs or dishes in the kitchen sink, then move on to other rooms and other photographs as time passed. To this growing collection of still life studies made in my own home, I added thematically related interior photographs and studies of assembled objects found while visiting friends and family. I toured and photographed prison cells and common areas at Alcatraz Island. On one occasion, I obtained permission to enter and photograph the interior of an abandoned farm dwelling illuminated through fissures and shattered glass, each wall a pentimento.

The series includes one portrait. My father, for whom profound agoraphobia has had a lifelong impact, is now afflicted with dementia. He still recalls formative episodes from his remote past. We were having coffee together. He grew pensive while reflecting on his experiences during World War II, and I made a photograph. It occurred to me that his military obligation in the Pacific Theater was one of the rare times in his life he had left home.

- Geoffrey Agrons

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