LEW THOMAS, GraLab 1971, Silver Gelatin Print, 2015, 10 x 10 inches. Edition of 10.
GraLab 1971 is one photograph from Lew Thomas’s piece TIME EQUALS 36 EXPOSURES. The presentation of the concept of Time was identified with the practice of photography, 36 photographs of a GraLab clock turning counter-clockwise were taken and developed.
Writing in 1980, critic Robert Morgan suggested that, “one might instinctively regard such a reductionist gesture in photography as typical of the conceptual art produced in the late sixties;” however, “for Thomas, this direct photographic gesture was the beginning of a new outlook on the craft.” Thomas explains, “Irrelevant details complicating the subject … were eliminated until I had reduced the process to a camera, a roll of film and a lab clock. When the work was completed … it was not dependent on hidden messages for its depth of meaning. It was physical and opaque, its object being nothing more that the systematic exploration of the photographic process and its corresponding structure.”
A freelance photographer and art consultant since 1995, Lew Thomas served as Visual Arts Curator for the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans from 1988-1995, and as Executive Director of the Houston Center for Photography, Houston, Texas, from 1985-87. Together with Donna-Lee Philips, he cofounded the San Francisco based NFS Press, which published and distributed landmark conceptual photography books through the 1970s and early 1980s. He has taught and lectured on photography at North Texas State University; the University of Arizona, Tucson; SF State University; the Center for Experimental and Interdisciplinary Arts; City College of San Francisco; and SFAI. Thomas’ work has been collected by institutions such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; New Orleans Museum of Art; Center for Creative Photography, Tucson; and MOMA.