Week No. 6, Pax Imperator Upon the Crimson Seas of War

Pax Imperator
Pax Imperator

Continuing the series “Seven Deadly Sins Plus” that I’ve been working on, this is one of my most recent additions. Intended as a commentary on the permanent state of war that is a feature of Pax Americana, this piece combines shots of several scenes from each “Apocalypse Now” and “Restrepo.” The title is a play on a crudely and naively jingoist poem by Oscar Wilde, Ave Imperatrix dated 1881, written in at the time of the British empire’s wars to subdue Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. On first reading, and from where we stand today, the poem appears almost satirical…almost a caricature…alas! Wilde used the feminine form since the imperial ruler at the time was Queen Victoria. The male form seems more appropriate in our time.

The final stanza makes clear that the “socialist” Wilde stands with Victorian imperialism’s war aims.

In this series, I’ve combined still photographs I’ve made of segments of two or more movies or trailers, sometimes with other original work, to create a composition which is a critical photo-essay about the original productions and their broader relevance in social terms, from my point of view.

from Ave Imperatrix
by Oscar Wilde

SET in this stormy Northern sea,
Queen of these restless fields of tide,
England! what shall men say of thee,
Before whose feet the worlds divide?

The earth, a brittle globe of glass,
 Lies in the hollow of thy hand,
And through its heart of crystal pass,
Like shadows through a twilight land,

The spears of crimson-suited war,
The long white-crested waves of fight,
And all the deadly fires which are
The torches of the lords of Night….


Where are the brave, the strong, the fleet?
Where is our English chivalry?
Wild grasses are their burial-sheet,
And sobbing waves their threnody.

O loved ones lying far away,
What word of love can dead lips send!
O wasted dust! O senseless clay!
Is this the end! is this the end!

Peace, peace! we wrong the noble dead
To vex their solemn slumber so;
Though childless, and with thorn-crowned head,
Up the steep road must England go,

Yet when this fiery web is spun,
Her watchmen shall descry from far
The young Republic like a sun
Rise from these crimson seas of war.

Jay M. Ressler

Jay Ressler Composite Photography, Encaustic Art, and Oil Painting He is an outstanding location photographer and painter, with an eye that can capture the soul of a Havana back street as beautifully as the sip of a hungry hummingbird, often with compelling black and white images. Jay Ressler is best known for artistic expression that lives in layers between opposites. “I like to explore boundaries,” he explains. “Boundaries between consciousness and the unconscious, between reality and imagination, between certainty and skepticism.” He does this by compositing his own photography in multiple layers to produce stunningly original, interleaved images. Using Photoshop, other image manipulation software and a variety of digital effects, he paints one photographic layer on top of another. He takes advantage of textures he's captured along with an array of processes for manipulating light, contrast, and color to tell the story. “Distorting and reinterpreting the literal 'machine moments' captured by the camera is as old as the art of photography,” he insists. Jay occasionally extends his multi-layered approach to encaustic mixed media creations. Based on ancient techniques, the process begins with cooking his own recipes of beeswax and damar resin and applying this medium between the layers of photographic images, along with various pigmented compounds and materials to add color, texture and expression. Either way, the results are riveting. The viewer is drawn into an unfolding, dreamlike scene that might be heart-warming, haunting, gritty, poignant or magical. Sometimes, within the various layers, all of the above. The award-winning photographer/artist has many dimensions himself. He studied advanced digital photography at Pittsburgh Filmmakers and advanced encaustic techniques with leading instructors in the field. He worked as an underground coal miner, steelworker, machinist, labor and civil rights activist, copywriter and commercial printer. He has a BS in Psychology from Albright College.

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