Albert Moser : PANORAMA

Albert Moser: PANORAMA opens at the UK Chandler Hospital on Thursday, October 20, 2011. The exhibition features Moser’s panoramic photographs and was organized by Institute 193 Creative Director, Phillip March Jones, for the UK Arts in Healthcare program. Below is Jones’ introduction to the show catalog which will be available beginning Friday on the Institute 193 SHOP. For more information about the exhibition or UK Arts in Healthcare, email phillip@institute193.org.

Albert Moser is seated at a small table in his sister’s house in Lexington, Kentucky. He wears large-rimmed glasses and a Hawaiian shirt with blue flowers, its breast pocket overflowing with pens, pencils, rulers, and various scraps of paper. As he shuffles through a stack of photographs and intricate drawings, he gruffly assures me, “You couldn’t do this if you tried.”

Albert Moser was born on December 29, 1928 in Trenton, New Jersey. After finishing the 9th grade, he joined the Army and was sent to Japan for 18 months as part of America’s occupying force after World War II. In March of 1948, he traveled back to the United States and worked a number of odd jobs. He washed airplanes at McGuire Air Force Base and was briefly employed in the candy counter of a large department store in Trenton. According to his sister, Ruth Moser, “that didn’t last long – he ate all the candy.” He also worked intermittently at his father’s print shop. In January 1960, Moser enrolled in a photography course at The School of Industrial Arts under the American G.I. Bill. He completed the course in 9 months, receiving a diploma that marked the beginning of a long career as a photographer.

Those nine months at the School of Industrial Arts were the only formal training Moser ever received in photography, but it was enough to reinforce his nascent interest in the medium, fostering a sense of professionalism and purpose. Moser seems to have identified himself, first and foremost, as a photographer, joining the Trenton Camera Club and investing in various cameras, lenses, filters and other photographic gear. He also tried to sell his work, going so far as to photograph local businesses in Trenton, developing the photos, and offering them to business owners for a small fee.

In the early 1970s, Moser began making panoramic composite photographs of landscapes, cities and other places that he liked to visit. Having chosen a particular view, Moser would slowly turn his camera, taking as many as thirty pictures from his position, making sure to capture every “slice” of his chosen perspective. He meticulously aligned the resulting photographs and joined them together using scotch or masking tape. Moser’s panoramas are dominated by cityscapes and skylines but occasionally feature residential neighborhoods or beachfront scenes. People appear in the photographs only as part of the larger setting, and they are rarely mentioned in the detailed descriptions Moser neatly composed on the back of every photograph.

A by-product of his formal education and a personal obsession with detail, Moser’s descriptions are methodical, and their format remained unchanged over a period of thirty-five years. In the first line, he lists his occupation as “photographer,” and records his personal address alongside the date. The second line is a matter-of-fact description of the buildings and structures that make up the landscape. Moser favored precision, and usually describes the contents of his photographs using proper nouns (e.g. A picture is not of the “ocean” but of the Atlantic Ocean, a “hotel” is a Holiday Inn). In the last line of the description he catalogues the photographic equipment and camera settings he used to make the panorama, including camera type, film speed, f-stop setting, lens profile, and film brand. Most of his photos also bear a custom ink stamp, a calling card of sorts, which reads “Albert Moser,
Photographer, 58 Beechwood Ave. Trenton, N.J.”

Since 1970, Moser has created several hundred panoramas using his formulaic technique. These panoramas, hand-made precursors of Google map images,document the development and changing character of several American cities, particularly Lexington, Kentucky and Trenton, New Jersey. The resulting works are studies in structure, geometry and architecture, and rarely focus on people or human interaction. According to Moser’s sister, “he is the kind of guy who would go to a wedding and take pictures of the cake, not the bride and groom.”

Moser’s work as an artist and photographer revolves around a constant seeking of equilibrium, balance and structure in a world that is chaotic and fluid. He is naturally drawn to buses, trains and other things that function on schedules or that have static routes. In the same vein, Moser seeks out buildings and outdoor structures that are permanently posed in the landscape, willing subjects for a deliberate and precise photographer. The process of creating a panorama must be cathartic for Moser, allowing him to sit down and calmly piece together all of the chaos of the city into a neat row of pictures – quiet and still.

– Phillip March Jones