I’ve always been an artist — whether at heart or in practice. Being an artist “at heart” is all about seeking, searching for the incredible beauty that exists (naturally) or has been created (whether by man or nature or even other forms of life). I think there are times that my comments about photography are taken as being critical of other photographers but I can’t really recall any time in my life that I have actually felt critical of another photographer even if I have commented about things I would have done differently in some image, or wondered whether there was any merit to an image. That is all subjective and the world — to me — is a grand grayscale with very little black (terrible) and very little white (perfect) — and a lot of stuff in between that has some merit, some value, some beauty. Which means that through my eyes there might be a lot of images I never would have captured — but that doesn’t mean that someone else should not have captured them for very different reasons than I would have had if I had the camera in my fingers.
This is such an amazing world we live in and yet it seems that the things we value as a culture are more about violence and sensationalism than about beauty and truth (yes, I do believe there is such a thing as absolute truth) and creativity. The fact that an athlete can earn millions of money a year for defending a ball maddens me, while artists routinely die poor — only to become post-mortem monuments when collectors choose their works as investments (rather than art).
I struggle with my own perceptions of this world. I’m always looking for the beauty, the sublime symmetry / balance / contrast that elevates the common into the uncommon.
Simply look with perceptive eyes at the world about you,
and trust to your own reactions and convictions.
Ask yourself, ‘Does this subject move me to feel,
think and dream?’
— Ansel Adams
There are such sights; there are such sounds; there are such tastes; there are such textures; there are such aromas… isolated dots in the universe of absolute perfection. For me, those veritable points of light in an otherwise dismal universe are proof enough that there is a God — I don’t need a heavy theology to prove that to me. Faith is easy for me, I only need to realize that there are those things in life, veritable valves within our body that operate only once in a lifetime — at the moment of birth — and which determine whether we’ll survive as air-breathing beings or die as infants unable to breathe oxygen in our lungs.
The same force which formed us forms the world as well, and not only the world but it give us the ability to create out of nothingness things of great beauty. Of that I am in awe. For that I never cease to search. And on some levels everything else is of little or no consequence.
Over the years I’ve tried my hand at music, at visual arts, at writing. I’ve enjoyed them all. I can’t say I’ve been particularly adept at most of them. My musical talents today, after playing with the clarinet, the accordion, the bugle and the piano are pretty rudimentary. I could probably still plunk out a hymn from a familiar hymnal but don’t push me much further than that. I keep swearing that some day I’m going to try watercolors; in fact we have dragged along a pad of watercolor paper and a small box of paint and brushes for low unto 4 1/2 years now. Never once have I gotten them out to play. Recently I told Peggy that maybe I’m waiting for the time when we get OFF the road and I have better access to controlled sources of water before I give it a shot but who knows whether I’ll ever get around to trying? I surely don’t know.
Those special moments and special sights don’t have to be enduring. We drove all the way to NYC from Wisconsin just to see The Gates by Christo. And even though the weather was miserable and cold I still find something wonderful and moving about those orange gates threading their way through Central Park. It was a moment in time. A lot of wonderful things comprise nothing more than a moment in time. The first time you see the woman you’ll marry smile at you. That first view of your newborn child. The scent of newly mown grass. The sound of a pipe organ playing Bach or a soprano singing O mio bambino caro. There will always be moments of extreme beauty.
I early in life I wanted to record those moments. Those were the days of early home movie cameras and audio recorders, I had shelves and shelves of recordings of all sorts of things. The reality being that recordings (and photos) are rarely as touching as the original. Unless the photo is the original. Or unless the work isn’t really a photo or a recording at all.
It’s funny how some things strike you differently than others. I love to see the Live Oaks here in the Southwest. But I find I make very few images of Live Oaks. I find it impossible to capture what it is about them that so appeals to me. Conversely, evergreens seem ubiquitous and yet they are frequent subjects. Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt and rarity doesn’t always lend value.
We have now spent three winters out of the cold and into warmer temperatures year round. I can’t honestly say I feel as if my internal thermostat has changed one bit. I still often find that I love the days when the temps are in the 40’s more than those that are in the 80’s. I wonder what that suggests about my view of beauty. I used to get out to make images of snow on trees; during the last three winters with trees in dormancy I made nearly as many images — do I think dormant trees are less beautiful? I do admit that we went in search of autumn leaves last fall but because of the strange weather in ’15 the Wisconsin autumn was not as colorful as usual and I did very little shooting of fall color.
Life does change us. Like it or not, none of us is the person we were two or five years ago. That means that I have to keep looking at what’s around me with new eyes. I have to keep trying to see things around me as if I’ve never noticed them before, or never cared about them before.
And as for my subconscious… I realized the other night that when I’m having perfectly wonderful dreams I still dream of Wisconsin forests and doing things in them — albeit always during the summer.
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll be here tomorrow if you want to chat.