Carl Finkbeiner


An emerging photographer living and working in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania, I have been pursuing photography with serious intent since 2016. I have obtained the Contemporary Practices Photography Certificate from the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, culminating with a book, an exhibition, and an artist’s lecture.

I am an atheist who embraces mystery, the ecstatic, by which I mean something deeper than mindlessly delirious rapture.  Ecstasy is consciousness of the transcendent, of something bigger than myself that, far from being mindless, fills my mind.  These beliefs are burned in, to the point where acting on them as a young man even got me arrested.  I have always sought to find the ecstatic in the world around me, without relying on a god or religion for a path.

My search starts from understanding the known.  Knowing can itself be transcendent. It leads inevitably to the unknown and to the recognition of something beyond the familiar.  In a career spanning 40 years, I pursued the rigor of mathematics and its applications first in psychology and then marketing science.  Tellingly, I gravitated to the field of statistics, in which the mysterious holds an important place.  Statistical models always contain a term to represent error or noise in the system, sometimes expressively referred to as disturbance, that which we cannot otherwise explain or account for.

I am entranced by contrasts in general.  The light/shadow contrasts of photography enhance conceptual contrasts among people, their constructions, and nature.  Such contrasts by themselves can evoke transcendence, and can amplify their inherent tension by illuminating connections and raising questions, the contemplation of which deepens the mystery.  Contrasts aid in telling stories, compelling engagement, provoking thought, and driving the ecstatic moment.

Now retired from my research career, I seek a different path, deliberately choosing photography because it has always touched me, and because I once, about 50 years ago, spent a lot of time doing it.  Life happened and I regretfully stepped off that path then.  I am getting old now.  Ecstasy gets a little harder to come by, and I am conscious that I cannot dawdle this time.

Atheism and the ecstatic state. The known and the unknown. The precise statistical model and the noisy disturbance. The beautiful and the ugly. Light and shadow. Contrasts and questions. Representing and story-telling. So much to explore, so little time left.