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Three Words

hidden ~ world ~ nearby

In 1987 New England Monthing Magazine gave me an assignment to photograph a small stream called Beaver Book that ran under Interstate 495 a north-south highway. Eventually I found the image below I call Dreamed Brook. I photographes it from a small conctrete bridge directly on I-495. On this particular morning a fog hid power-lines that otherwise would have ruined the image. This eventually became my best selling image. I viewed this stream every year for the next ten years and it never looked this way again.

The author, John Hanson Mitchell wrote the essay to accompany my photographs. In his book Ceremonial Time he wrote of his preference for nearby places rather than those selected by experts and the the idea of “hidden,” “nearby” and “worlds” suddenly seemed to encapsulate my experences of photographing. They joined in my mind as The Hidden World of the Nearby and so my whole outlook on my work changed. I realized I had never encountered another photographer except twice in 28 years and they were training that camers far away from what I was photographing. And thus this short verse encapsulated my photograaphic life:

Out of the corner of my eye
in the hidden world of the nearby
untended gardens thrive
or pass from time unnoticed.


Most accomplished artists find their direction early and usually it is a single direction. I began photography at eight with a Brownie Hawkeye but it wasn’t until 23 years later that I bought a view camera and began serious shooting all the while holding down a full-time job as a product manager at Bose.

Luck had this switch from engineering to marketing happen at the right time. While I was learning what it was like to shoot the landscape with a four by five I found myself working with the best photographers in Boston (with 8“ x 10” view cameras), and somtimes even directing them.

Working at Bose had another benefit: business trips to the west (and even Japan with a stopover in Anchorage) where I could explore iconic locaations (Brice, Canyonlands, Arches). One major lesson was that I had to photograph near where I lived. An occasional visit did not work. In fact I spent ten to fifteen years shooting my most important subject-areas. I also learned I would have to make my own prints to get the results I wanted.

In 1977 I built a darkroom especially for making dye transfer prints. Looking at exhibits of dye transfer prints convinced me it was the only process that could deliver sufficient color saturation and control.

Ipswich Sunset

Ipswich Sunset

Near Crane Beach, Ipswich, Massachusetts,= JW 4367

Ipswich Sunset

Ipswich Sunset

Near Crane Beach, Ipswich, Massachusetts,= JW 4367


In the west I oddly enough discovered my love of New England, but back home all I really knew was that it would not be lighthouses. But there were places I frequented that might work. The top of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont was a nice vista but nothing special. I was drawn to salt marshes but it was nine years before I was really pleased. However, fall brought milkweeds and frost.

I found a beautiful double pod but it was next to a firing range, so I brought it home and experimented with lighting for several months.

Vermont, if you looked, in small, out-of-the-way places was wonderful. But it was seven years before I found the overlooks on the Mass Pike where valleys had been filled and I could see directly into the tree canopy.

I found these views in several places along Interstate 90 (the Mass Pike). However only two locations were practical in provide good perspectives along with safe parking.

The view from the overlook in Weston changed the way I saw the landscape leaving me to look for textured patterns rather than points of focus, thus leaving the eye to wander with only a little guideance. This approach was not always the best but it led me to look for situations that explored the idea.

I found that the best way to explore was to drive and keep a lookout. This is the way I worked with one exception. While hiking around Walden Pond I found what was likely a vernal pool covered with a water-rooted plant known as a water-shield. My first day there led to some extraordinary images and I returned every year for ten years.

Eventually I realized how fortunate I was to find my images in places easily overlooked although near to places I accidently drove by or found by short walks.

Water-shields And Oak Leaf

Water-shields And Oak Leaf

Wyman’s Meadow, Walden Pond State Reservation, Concord, Massachusetts. October 1991
cat. JW 0621

The Hidden World of the Nearby

Today I laughed and cried, I thought my life was passing by
and it was, it was, in joy and fear, in talk with friends and music, of course, to my ears.
I joined in as usual not aware that life was happening much closer than my friend three feet away
for each sentance brought sentience, the experience of life, but only in some hidden place
as near as anything can be the drawing and dawnings in my mind was the place where I would find
hidden because the birth of life gave it a place where I imagine my soul must be
but without the wisdom to think that I am my mind and there is no nearby so near yet so hidden.

When these thoughts came to me, enveloped in the day of joy and fear
they live just long enough to expire and lie forgotten. Again.

Then it comes time to practice my profession of looking and hoping to see
that not noticed by anyone but me so I can gather light
of form and texture and color that is so much more for nature does see
as it lives making me a gift just for the effort of looking it lets me see
which makes the joy of which real life is made whether in sun or shade,
but always hiden until I look and then see that which was hidden but not from me.

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