Part 4 in a series of 5 weekly posts about discovery and the creative process
“To see is to forget the name .
of the thing that one sees.”
My work that 1st day, around the inlet where these Lotus plants existed, was completed in less than an hour with maybe a few dozen or so images having been made. The area was actually fairly small and much of my time had been used in the logistics of moving through the dense forest undergrowth that surrounds these plants. While shooting, I tried to release and just work, but I would often sense the conflict inside of wondering what I would do with these photographs and a deeper sense that I needed to shoot here. Since I was there, I just surrendered to the process–at least for awhile.
The fact that Central Texas had experienced a major drought last year had actually made access to the area and to the plants much easier than I realized at the time. That point was driven home on future trips, as it would end up raining between each visit and access became more difficult as the lake’s level rose.
As I said in Part 3, I did feel that I had made some images that I could possibly include in my Texas landscape project. But again, I’ve never really been attracted to shooting flora specifically. My assumption was that there would be a rather limited number of possibilities here that would meet the aesthetic preferences I have for my own work. I also felt that there would be a very limited variation in images as well
The internal conflict I was feeling here was actually quite unusual for me. I often go places that don’t necessarily seem conducive to the work I am interested in creating but I love being out and discovering new things. When I shoot in such cases, I don’t expect to do much with the work but enjoy them as memories. That said, I also know that things often sneak into images if you just let yourself work. Things that are beyond your awareness and can lead to something new or different–or even just a new awareness. So, I never really think about it like I was here, I just work. Here, I was feeling something very deeply about photographing this place and just couldn’t reconcile it with my reality at that point. To somehow restore equilibrium, I guess my conscious mind was bolstering a superficial bias I must have been harboring inside. Fortunately, I decided to shoot through those doubts and push on with the process I had adopted for this project.
It wasn’t until I got home and downloaded the images onto my computer that I actually began to understand the potential that this area might afford—especially as embodied in some of the more intimate images. “Understand” might be an overstatement as I still wasn’t sure how deep I could go with this subject, but I did decide that I needed to go back for a more thorough visit. This work also seemed to demand that it be in black-and-white, which was in conflict with what I had been wanting to do. I think that is when I first sensed the possibility of a different body of work or maybe just the creation of more singular type imagery.
With other commitments in front of me, it was a couple of weeks before I could return. I decided to camp there and spent 3 days in the area. Although I would explore the Lotus plants a bit more each day, I spent much of that time working on another project idea in an area adjacent to this lake. But camping in very close proximity to the plants, I often visited them both before and after I had worked the other area. Even so, I was soon wondering, again, what I was doing there. I made about half as many images, in total, in those three days as I had during that first, one hour visit. That same conflict was brewing inside where part of me was not responding to the “flora” itself and yet part of me knew there was something to be done here. Every once in awhile, I would see something that would really grab my attention, but that seemed rare. In most cases, finding just one important image in a place is cause for celebration, but I was spending a lot of time here. I guess I was still trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with these things while maybe doing it, to some extent, in spite of myself.
Even my third trip, which was just one day, would yield a paltry number of exposures. In fact, about the same production as visit two. When I finished that day, I figured I was done with it, that there couldn’t possibly be anything more for me there. Of course, when I got home, as with each time before, I found just enough inspiration from a few made that trip that I had to go back.
That fourth visit was the game changer, everything seemed to fall into place and photographs were jumping out at me. My iPhone got so hot from all the shooting that I worried it might explode like the one I had seen do so on the internet. When I got home and looked at what I had done that day, I consciously decided to shelve the Texas landscape project. I would concentrate on these plants as they entered, and passed through, the end of their life cycle. I finally realized that it had been this process, the one that led to regeneration, that was what I had been waiting for–and seeing but not fully recognizing it on those previous trips. The series “Lotus” was born.