Part 3 in a series of 5 weekly posts about discovery and the creative process
I actually try and work before .
my mind is telling me what to do.
One of the thoughts I had regarding the use of my iPhone was that I wanted to return to explore the landscape more in the vein I had up until 1990, a more metaphorical type imagery which has its roots in the tradition of the Equivalent. Instead of working in black & white as I had back then, I wanted to work in color.
<digression>When I had finished my series “Under Perfumed Skies” in 1990, I concurrently decided to leave my 18 year career in the corporate world and pursue a life as a commercial photographer. It is not uncommon to feel at loose ends when completing a body of work and/or mounting a show and this particular series had been extremely important to me. This type of letdown had happened to me before but never this intensely and this time both things had happened—the completion of a new series and a showing of that work. Generally, I found it took a few months of soul searching to shake this type of funk off and find my path again. On this occasion, I had no chance to recoil and be introspective, I needed to create a commercial portfolio and get some clients—I had made this change cold turkey.
So, I saw this new way of working as maybe a catalyst to reimmerse myself in this type of work. At the same time, it would also be a different type of creative exercise than I had ever embraced before. If that type of work was still in me as I thought, it would certainly come out, but the process might also reveal unexpected results as well. I was excited to see where it might take me. I set out for a day at a couple of “wilderness areas” near home. That was about a year ago. After looking at those images, I returned to one of the locations to further explore it and then determined that I would move forward using this device and this method of working that would be centered around a particular aspect of Texas landscape.
Over the next couple of months I made several trips to various locations and was seeing different themes and directions emerging in the new work. Generally, I don’t try to define this sort of work upfront but rather let it take its own course over time. I look at images as I make them, to see what is emerging but then largely ignore the work until I am at a point where it makes sense to see what is or isn’t going on. At that point, I can continue as I was or redirect my efforts as needed. I expected, and still do, that this project would take a few years but have no idea as to its final form—I think the work generally defines itself when it is done.
My intent, even though I knew the Texas heat in the summer is limiting, was to continue to work on the project throughout the year. But the extreme heat this past summer, often reaching 105°F, put the project on hold for several months. In fact, my wife and I took relief from the heat by traveling to the Northwest for a few weeks last July, where we could enjoy the outdoors without wilting.
As the fall temperatures became more reasonable, I was anxious to continue working on my new project. My 1st outing to do this took me to a lake not far from my home.
Whether it was the months in between or just the location, I initially wasn’t finding anything of interest to photograph. Actually, it isn’t uncommon that when I arrive at a new location I will not necessarily respond immediately to what I see there. By walking around and sometimes forcing myself to start shooting if needed, I usually become more in tune with my surroundings and start seeing. In this case, it just wasn’t really happening for me and everything just felt a bit forced.
Under normal circumstances, I may have decided to return to the car and drive to a different place to see if I could get myself going. But my wife, who often travels with me, had gone ahead and disappeared around the near end of the lake. Fortunately, I made the decision to follow rather than to just wait in the car. That is when I discovered the somewhat hidden, little finger of the lake she had disappeared into and the wonderful growth of lotus plants there. I have to admit that I was totally blown away by the size and beauty of these plants. I had never seen anything like them. However, I have never been much of a flora shooter either. Maybe an occasional image here or there, but it just has never been a subject I had much affinity for or interest in exploring photographically, although I certainly could enjoy these things in the moment.
Having adopted the more “stream of consciousness” shooting style for this project—which just means shooting anything that catches the eye without thinking about it—I ended up working the area much more thoroughly than I may have otherwise. I am sure that I would have made a few images, if for no other reason than as a document of the beauty of these plants, but most likely it wouldn’t have gone much further. It was because of the nature of the project–and as I would find out, the use of the iPhone–that I continued to work the area as I did.
When I was done there, I did feel that I would have an image or two that might work in the Texas landscape project, however, I had no idea what I had really found. There certainly had been an odd sensation within me about this place, which I now believe was a deeper recognition of what was there for me, but it wasn’t something I was willing to fully embrace or consciously recognize at the time.