One of my favorite books of all time was Time and Again, by the great Jack Finney. The book tells the story of a young man who with a bit of assistance from the government (clandestine of course) was able to engage in time travel. No equipment required though. All he had to do was make himself open to the experience. Time passes but it doesn’t really pass. It is still there if we know how to relate to it. The book’s star was residing, at the request of his coconspirators, at Manhattan’s famous Dakota building. After quite some time trying to figure out how to be open to the experience, and many false starts, he simply woke up one morning, went outside and it was the later 19th century. He had taken up the past’s invitation to visit.
It reminded me of what I try to see when visiting a place with the past. I do wish I could visit it for real (of course, I’m sure I would have no idea how to cope but what fun is it to think about that). Sometimes you can find a door or at least a window to the past, an object, an artifact, a story, a book. Walking along what was once the Blackstone Canal ins Uxbridge, MA it’s easy to hear history’s rumblings. In the Blackstone Heritage Corridor Park you’re walking along the towpath after all. A team of mules pulled the canal boats along the journey from Worcester to Providence. If it’s quiet, it is easy to ponder what it was like when the towpath was actually in use, in the early 1800’s. For me, one of the windows into that state of reverie are the intense reflections that can be seen there on a calm day.. They are intense enough to be disorienting and I offer you a small collection here. I resisted the temptation to turn them upside down. You’re welcome.
Hopefully a better one….
Tower Hill Botanic Gardens, December 2015.
The weather in New England of course deteriorates after Thanksgiving. We already had a brief taste of winter snow, and today it is very cold. The landscape changes under those conditions of course. I had the urge to hold on to the fall just a little bit longer. These were taken in Institute Park, downtown Worcester, Massachusetts, right before Thanksgiving. The leaves are now gone of course.
This family of Swans was doing some final business before dispersing.
The sky gave a hint of what is to come.
Events of recent days remind me that, as John Prine says, “all the news repeats itself.” Here we go again. Perhaps we’ll learn something this time.
Elm and Institute Parks, Worcester, Massachusetts, November 2014
I’ve been seeking the “Holy Grail” recently and as is typically the case, coming up empty handed. So what constitutes a good photograph? Stupid question, I know. The answer is “a good photograph.” There is no answer other than, it all depends. But that doesn’t stop us from trying. As many wiser people have told me, or written, art is so subjective that if you’re aspiring to practice it, you are buying yourself an on-going confidence problem. Is it any good? Well, it really does all depend. You’re supposed to learn the rules of photography when you start getting serious, but then you’re supposed to break them routinely. My most recently I have been worshipping at the alter of simplicity. Edie Adams famously said that the best photographs are simple, they have just a one or two elements. You try to get everything else out of the frame.
That little clump of grass has a true life of its own. It survives storm after storm, and it’s still there, by itself. (All the images in this blog are from my recent trip to Manteo, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This is an early evening shot of Roanoke Sound.) There is a large bridge just to the right of the frame and closer to the photographer, on either side of the frame is significant and quite attractive foliage. There is very little beach. You just get a hint of the rocks in the fore ground. The image is then heavily cropped, albeit in the lens.
Here’s a somewhat messy location on the other side of the Island, overlooking Croatan Sound. I have cropped (in camera and in the digital darkroom) severely to simplify the image. This is a public location but it is poorly kept. This was actually the location of the Confederate Battery that was supposed to stop the Union Navy from capturing the Island and controlling sea access to North Carolina during the Civil War. The Confederates were shall we say not successful.
I enjoy the simplicity of the image and the one or two elements (I guess you’d say four actually, counting the sky.) But can you live your life that way?
Let me say it for you…”what the hell is that?” That is the bottom of the root system of an overblown tree, half submerged in the water. You find it along a charming nature walk at Pocosin National Wildlife Refuge in Columbia, NC, not far from the Outer Banks. It sits there, providing house and home for all sorts of critters. The Park Service will not touch it, and they shouldn’t. This tree is going to keep on giving for many years, even though it’s formal life is over. I find it joyfully complex, almost overwhelming. Who knows what’s going on in there at any given time. Probably a lot. Nature perhaps is not simple. There are indeed quiet and one could say simple moments of harmony, but the constant state of change we find in nature is neither simple nor harmonious. Photography and art more generally has to somehow grapple with those discontinuities. My pursuit of a perfectly simple world was off target. Glad I figured that one out.