"Landscape photography can offer us, I think, three verities—geography, autobiography, and metaphor. Geography is, if taken alone, sometimes boring, autobiography is frequently trivial, and metaphor can be dubious. But taken together . . . the three kinds of representation strengthen each other and reinforce what we all work to keep intact—an affection for life." — Robert Adams"The human endowment includes sensory organs similar to those of other primates, but it is capped by an exceptionally refined capacity for symbolization." — Yi-Fu Tuan
The Angle of a Landscape—
That every time I wake—
Between my Curtain and the Wall
Upon an ample Crack—
Like a Venetian—waiting—
Accosts my open eye—
Is just a Bough of Apples—
Held slanting, in the Sky — Emily Dickinson
I am interested in our relationship to the places around us, and how those places—both the extraordinary and the mundane—shape who we are, and how they are shaped by us.
When I was four, my family moved from an apartment in Providence, Rhode Island to a house in Webster, Massachusetts—a small mill-town forty miles to the northwest. The neighborhood we moved to was surrounded by woods, full of paths to walk, and rocks and trees to climb. The high canopy of leaves let in the sun in unpredictable ways, creating hypnotizingly beautiful shafts of light and color. On most days, I spent hours in those woods—sometimes with friends, more often alone.
I've lived my life in southern New England and am still at home in its woods and fields in a way I seldom am in grander terrain. I've spent a good deal of time trying to see and respond to these places more clearly and directly.
From the time I was young, I've also been fascinated by the experience of heightened attention. While it initially occurred in spontaneous and unpredictable ways, I learned that the experience could be reproduced by simply staring quietly—until what I was staring at became strange and unfamiliar-looking. As I got older, I developed a capacity to induce that perceptual shift almost at will—something I expanded further through both meditation and drawing. What interests me most are small, quiet moments of clarity—the kind of moment when something is seen vividly, as if for the first time. For me, the impulse to make a photograph almost always begins with that kind of a moment; it rarely begins with an idea.
I became seriously interested in the expressive potential of photography in the early 1970s—initially drawn to the photographs of Thomas Merton, and subsequently influenced by photographers Paul Strand, Harry Callahan, Minor White and Emmet Gowin—all of whom had an enormous impact on me. I gave up photography in favor of painting in the 80s and 90s, but have since come back to where I started.
Several years ago I wrote a poem titled Corpus Callosum that ended with the line "stare till you go dumb". I intended for the word dumb to be understood by both its meanings: not talking and not thinking. For me, seeing is at least partly about stopping the chatter—both the chatter from my mouth, and the more constant chatter in my head.
joe at josephgerhard dot com (click on envelope icon)