John Wawrzonek images from The Hidden World of the Nearby
"The Hidden World of the Nearby" has gradually become a metaphor for me for much of what I observe about life.
The origin was my reluctance (or stubbornness) to study photography. Instead I drove around for seven years before I found the picture that would guide my work, as it does to this day. (The story of that image you can find here. The story behind the title of the collection you can find here.) The essence of these stories is, of course, the headline the Boston Globe used for a review of one of my exhibits: "Hidden in Plain Sight."
A wonderful photographer-friend from California commented to me recently about his experience at Mono Lake in California. When he was there at sunrise, there were 50 other tripods in the water.
In all my photographing since 1974 there was only one occasion when other photographers were nearby, and they were aiming their cameras across the pond at the fall foliage. I was pointing mine into a patch of reeds in the water, which become one of the most important parts of my collection.
I now have the feeling about nearly everything I read and hear about our world that something obvious and central to the news is missing. Often I think the most obvious is that the writer has forgotten about what life was like once, perhaps growing up poor and now part of the elite.
I think that we evolve simple answers (ideologies) because we are afraid to keep thinking. We look down the road only as far as the next turn. And we assume the earth will be the same tomorrow, despite the news that it is coming apart at the seams.
Most often I wonder why, in all the talk our lives are about and the importance of family, there is no talk about what was once a more common theme: "the family of man," which to me means that we can only survive by thinking of ourselves as a family which of course means caring for each other. And that in turn implies the essence of the golden rule.
This in turn reminds me of what is likely to have been the greatest photographic exhibition of all time created in 1955 by Edward Steichen for the Museum of Modern Art. (Click below) to a link to the Wikipedia article about the book and exhibition. Click here to go to "In Lieu of an Artist's Statement.)
Ironically there are no people in any of my images on this web site (at least as I write this). In retrospect I think I wanted to find what the nature itself was doing that I was missing.
The photograph that now comes to my mind most often when I think of this is one of my later ones. It was a patch that I call "rainbow grass." I saw it driving on the Mass Pike ( of course) a few feet from the entrance to a rest area on the Pike in Framingham, Massachusetts. As almost always has happened, I had to photograph it. I had never seen this kind of grass anywhere before or since, and grass is one of my favorite subjects.
For my wanderings in nature, people are a distraction. I want to see only what mother nature has put there. I leave out anything man-made and even horizons, since they are usually incidental. What matters to me is texture and color, out of which I make my compositions. It took me a decade or so to figure out how to go about photographing and several decades to understand what I was doing.
The enormous irony, of course, is what the "family"of man has become and what a great part of it has done to the earth and to the nature I have loved to photograph. There are no longer red maples in the fall where I live, and I expect that before long much of what I have photographed will have succumbed to the heat created by man's inability (or unwillingness) to see what is happening to the earth, though it may or not be nearby, the knowledge of it is everywhere.
In other places on this site I talk about other subjects and places and about how I got started photographing. For now here is the rainbow I found on a random spot on Interstate 90, the Massachusetts Turnpike.