Cloudy, 35 Degrees, Calm Winds
As soon as I stepped outside this morning I could feel that it would be a more relaxed day. It’s not too cold and for what seems like the first time this week, it’s not raining. So I settled into a comfortable pace and headed off for the woods with Jamie.
With the gray skies, the light seemed nothing special today. I had no particular idea of what I would shoot but, as always, I almost immediately began seeing things that caught my eye. I shot a number of tree and shrub trunks against the brush and background forest. I also shot the brush again. It had a silvery light on it today and I hoped to capture that. Everywhere I went, I saw possibilities despite the fact that I have photographed these same woods for almost a month now.
Yesterday I began to experiment with monochrome treatments of some of my photographs (I don’t call it black and white because I always tint the black with a warmer tone) and I liked what I saw. There is definitely something lost without the color, but what is gained is the subtle beauty of black and gray. It’s a completely different feel and I like it. With that in mind, I was conscious of subtle shades of gray in what I shot today.
I’ve written for a while now about the feeling that my photographs are too literal for me. I don’t like the idea of just taking pretty pictures of pretty things. Anyone can do that and it really doesn’t say much more than ‘isn’t this pretty.’
What I am looking for is to say something more. I was going to write that I can’t tell you what that “more” is, but that’s a cop out. If I’m going to write, then I owe it to you to make an effort to express what that thing is that I’m looking for. I’m not very good at expressing this stuff, but I do know when I see it.
So here’s my best effort at expressing what I’m looking for, at least as I understand it right now. I’m looking for a sense of monumentality, of formality, of timelessness in my images. My photographs often have a feeling of pathos to them. I don’t consciously pursue that feeling, but it comes out all the time and I like it when I see it.
This is not because I think life is sad. I love life and I live it with passion and pleasure as best I can. But there is also a seriousness to life and perhaps a seriousness to art that’s important to me. That seriousness, when you come down to it, is that we all have a limited time here to do what we choose. We’re all going to die, and for that reason, the choices we make are real and they’re serious. We only get one chance to live as we feel is right. There are no do-overs.
Sounds a bit grim when you say it, but if we weren’t going to die then we could just go on fooling around forever. Nothing would really have any intensity or meaning. But with death in the future, how I treat my wife, my friends and family has meaning. What I choose to do with my time has meaning. And if I’m going to make photographs, I want to make images that have some gravitas.
Nothing wrong with making happy pictures or pretty pictures or silly pictures. Someone needs to do it. It’s just not me, I’m afraid.