The human experience of beauty is at once both universal and personal. The experience of beauty can vary from subtle and rather ordinary to dramatic and intense. When the experience is dramatic and intense, words like “it took my breath away” are called upon to describe the experience but, in reality, mere words are inadequate. Beauty has many forms. There are the rare individuals whose very lives exude a beauty that transcends the physical. Photography, for me, has always been about a quest for the experience of beauty, and, the emotion that it can evoke ... whether subtle or intense.
Travel with a Purpose
The reemergence of long dormant passions of photography and travel occurred nearly simultaneously in my life and, with them, a commitment to seriously pursue a creative purpose as a way to add meaning to my life. Travel and photography provide a purpose for one another, and for me, that purpose is a desire to produce compelling art images that are not just testaments to special places at a point in time, but that are also capable of standing alone as compelling works of art.
City Streets after Dark
Lately, I've been inclined to wander the streets of cities after dark with a camera. During daylight hours most people are busy earning a living one way or another. After dark, however, people on city streets are more often busy adding meaning to their lives and the scenes unfolding are suggestive of human stories in progress. At these times, it is possible to make monochrome images that have a timeless quality. The resulting stills are capable of conjuring up impressions of scenes from the noir films of another time, and, it has occurred to me, some of the scenes could easily serve stimuli for a Dashiell Hammett like novel.
The best time to be in Wyoming aspen country is late September, and it is, perhaps, best experienced on foot in the backcountry where the only trails are made by elk, deer and other wild animals. Wyoming is rich in this kind of aspen country. There is a confluence of the aspen color show in Wyoming mountains with the annual ritual of elk rut. With the elk rut comes the sounds of bull elk bugling, cow elk mewing, and antlers clanging against other antlers or young trees. For the full experience of the sights and sounds, begin hiking away from known roads and trails in the early morning darkness while Orion is still looking down from above and shooting stars are crossing the sky above. Listen to the coyotes howl as daylight arrives and spend a long day hiking up and down the hills and drainages. On days like this, one just might sense an experience of the thread that holds the universe together.
Nature Studies: A Journey
The wonders of nature are present in wild places and in cities around the world. Often, natural areas within urban settings are intentionally left as wild parkland to serve a need that people everywhere have for a refuge from the trappings of the modern world. In other places, parklands are carefully landscaped and designed to create vignettes of nature intended almost solely for human appreciation. In landscaped settings, the designers often intend for their creations to attract butterflies, birds, and other wildlife. In Jing'an Park in Shanghai and Jiefang Park in Wuhan, the park's caretakers went so far as to place birdcages in trees that contained birds that sang the most beautiful songs each morning. Such human endeavors offer support for the notion that the natural world is capable of eliciting meaningful emotional responses within individuals that are independent of one's cultural background.
Traditional Chinese Architecture
Pavilions, pagodas, symmetry, feng shui, Taoism, talismans, and flow that wards off evil and encourages good fortune. I don't pretend to understand or comprehend these characteristics and influences of traditional Chinese architecture any more than I understand the Chinese language. Nevertheless, despite my limited comprehension of these traditional structures, I was drawn to photographing them. I would like to think that the Chinese were onto something with talismans on the upward sloping rooflines creating a flow that wards off evil and encourages good fortune. Then again, I'm not really sure the widespread adoption of that style of architecture would be a positive thing for the world of architecture. Would that there are other architectural approaches that could, and in fact, would, create similarly positive flow.
At the dawn of the 20th century the Flatiron Building in New York City had recently been completed. Alfred Stieglitz, an early advocate for photography as an art form, famously made some photographs of the Flatiron Building following the great winter storm of 1903. He was quoted speaking with passion about the building and his prints from that time are present in collections of important museums to this day. The connection between architecture and photography throughout the history of photography is not surprising. Light, space, shapes, lines, and form are concerns shared by both disciplines. So it is that I have found architecture to be a recurring theme in my own search for photographic subjects during my travels.