Once Was Here


Like many photographers I have lots of ideas swirling around in my head. I collect interesting sounding phrases and meditate on them. I try to get at the meanings of the words individually and then as a whole phrase. If I find it interesting enough it becomes a sort of model for my image making. And I work on several idea models at one time. There are a few idea models actively working away on my perception at this very moment! It gets hairy some times ;)…

There are a couple of idea models that I have been toying with for awhile. One is, “Private Compass”. Basically photographs that explicate the way I see the world. Another idea phrase currently active is, “Once Was Here”. I am not quite sure if I made this up or heard it somewhere, but it evokes both geography and history; nostalgia and evidence. The underlying structure is that Zen concept of looking at an object and seeing not only it, but it’s history; how it came to be, all the processes and beings and circumstances that caused it into being. I feel this conceptually most when I walk through City Parks and think of what the region would have looked like before people or before cities and also what will it be like after people, after abandonment. At these moments everyday critters become magical, little black birds are spirits and messengers from  the incorporeal realm much like they were to my Native American ancestors.

It is so easy now to make a technically good photograph. Have you seen those Apple ads touting, “Made with an iPhone 6”? A phone can make an image good enough to print full bleed in a major magazine. This is truly the age of the PhD photographer (Push here Dummy). Now more than ever the imagination, the mind behind the camera becomes of utmost importance. But hasn’t it always been this way? There is an Elliott Erwitt quote that goes something like this; “You do not take a picture with a camera, you take a picture with your mind”. So while this is not exactly a radical and new concept I think it has become  essential to anyone wanting to be creative with a camera today.

“Photography is a craft. Anyone can learn a craft with normal intelligence and application. To take it beyond the craft is something else. That’s when magic comes in. And I don’t know that there’s any explanation for that.” – Elliott Erwitt

Once Was Here

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