More than 40,000 years ago human beings mastered the technology of stone tallow lamps and used that knowledge to penetrate deep into caves the world over. There, with flickering lights barely penetrating the absolute darkness, they created astonishing paintings and engravings on walls and ceilings. What motivated them to do this is unknown, but it seems unlikely that they were impelled to such arduous, impractical exertions by anything other than their primitive beliefs. The history of humankind has ever since been studded by episodic entanglements of our rational technology and our irrational beliefs. Sometimes this duality has resulted in extraordinary achievements such as Upper-Paleolithic cave art or soaring medieval cathedrals. But sometimes it has produced what most people now view as evil consequences: the violent conquest of less technically able peoples, the industrialized genocide by Nazis inspired by pagan myths of racial superiority, even the current, technologically sophisticated terrorism driven by Dark-Ages beliefs of radical Islamists.
While capable of mustering the rigorous logic needed to develop technology, human beings are at the same time able to hold beliefs that clash with the very scientific basis of these technical achievements. It is in this sense that humankind experiences a dichotomy of realities that vie for control over our actions. This series of images, that I have titled Contending Realities, is intended to evoke this age-old conflict. The images are composites of photographs that I made of engraved curbstones at Neolithic burial mounds in Ireland and of modern war machines across the United States. The former stand as metaphors of belief and the latter as metaphors of technology. For me, compositing the two imparts a primal quality to the latter, exposing their creators' contending realities and revealing a fresh insight into what it means to be human.