This post was/is inspired by a recent series I’ve been working on.
I don’t know about you, but I get rather overwhelmed with the seemingly limitless photographic world we live in, potential photographs are EVERYWHERE. I’ve recently come to the realization that I could (and maybe will) never leave the state borders of Texas when photographing and I would never run out of subject matter that feels worthy of capturing on film. Our immediate surroundings, no matter how mundane (or visually rich) they might seem, are limitless in their photographic potential.
It seems to be so very apparent what Paul Strand once said “The artist’s world is limitless. It can be found anywhere, far from where he lives or a few feet away. It is always on his doorstep”. He’s right.
I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of photographing within a contained space. My first exhibit was a series of images all taken within a small sculpture garden. There was so much to be seen and discovered in that amazingly small, yet visually limitless, space. I could likely still be photographing there and not have run out of possibilities. Gaining an intimate knowledge of a place seems a prerequisite to fostering a deep relationship with that space, a requirement in having a muse of sorts.
Oakwood cemetery has undoubtedly been that muse for the last month. Every weekend, I wake up early on sat morning, I load my film holders, and I drive the short 2 miles up I35 to the MLK exit. I drive into the cemetery, I pick some random side road into the plots and within 30ft I’ve stopped my truck due to something visually whispering at me “psst… over here.” Sometimes I never make it more than a radius of 25yds from that first “psst” and I’ve already shot all 4 of my negatives, and am anxiously ready to develop the film. Often times, these steps will get repeated on the following Sunday morning, or even on a Friday morning when I’ve taken the day off from work.
Undoubtedly though, whether it be a Fri/sat/sun morning, by mid afternoon I’ve got 4 negatives, freshly developed, washed, and hanging while they dry. By the following morning I’ve often got 4 finished platinum/palladium prints hanging on the drying line from the previous days outing. The stack of prints is turning into a coherent and rather intimate portfolio of the beauty I’ve discovered in this old cemetery, one that holds a rather strong connection to my heart.
Without these countless visits and the countless hours, I don’t feel I could have uncovered the beauty of this place. It takes time and effort to gain understanding and feeling in any relationship, whether with a friend, a loved one, or even an old cemetery. There’s a dialogue that occurs (not unlike a relationship with a wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, or friend) between yourself and your subject. One that I personally feel can’t come over the course of a long weekend or a 2 week trip somewhere. You learn about the place, you learn about its relationship with sunlight and shadow, you learn about its dialogue with the earth and wind and rain, you learn about its small hidden secrets randomly stumbled upon, you learn about its neglected parts and its well cared for parts, you learn about its protectors and its enemies.
Yet these all take time. Time and commitment allow for the depth and intimacy needed to achieve something more than the cursory.”