The Hidden World of the Nearby

There are times when I do not take direction well.

Dr. Bose was my advisor at MIT, my mentor and my friend for 50 years. However, after twenty three years at Bose Corporation (I had arrived directly from MIT as the company's fifth employee) I had two realizations: that photography had taken over first place in my life, and that I could no longer take direction. I had had great independence at Bose Corporation but it was time to move on.

Not taking direction well meant I did not study photography. I did not want someone looking over my shoulder. I would rather make mistakes and learn from them. The one lesson I had was from a wonderful photographer and teacher named Stephen Gersh. I had met him by accident and told him what I was doing in photography. He said "call me when you are ready." I did not ask for an explanation, because I felt that I knew what he meant. A year or so later, I did call him and he came to my home. I gave him a stool, a light box and a stack of a hundred or so 4x5 transparencies. He would glance at each one and place them in one of two piles. I had been watching and said "I see what you're doing." He had clarified for me what I was trying to do in making my photographs. From that time I had a better sense of what I was looking for.

I believe that it was Steve’s observations that made me realize what was my idea of a good picture, and it awakened my fascination with Eliot Porter’s Redbud Tree In Bottomland. It does seem a little odd for someone to say “here is what you are doing right,” and suddenly the light dawns (I can hear Jimmy Cagney in the background:“Yeh! Yeh! That’s the ticket....)

I slowly realized that it was texture, pointilism, arrangements of leaves, flower petals, dewdrops that attractedd me, for no reason I can explain. However, it seemed that texture became the essence of my images, and I would build composition around the texture. I also found something playful about such images. How much to guide the eye. As one reviewer put it, the image looks like it was cut from a tapestry and could extend to infinity in either direction.

An implication is that there will be few clues as to the center of interest. This is not a picture of a “thing” but a capturing of the totality of what nature was doing in that place at that time.

Early Buds on Maple Trees I

The vanishing center of interest.

These images illustrate what I am drawn to. Above left reminded me of Porter’s red buds. Above right are water-shields near Walden Pond. Below left are wild blueberries in Maine.

I do not have a clue as to where or when the grasses and clover below right was made, but it was a nice surprise to find it recently. My guess is a field in Lousiana.

Blueberry Leaves in Two Colors
Worth Looking Over
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