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Learing To See


Places And Subjects

Photographs of the natural landscape is the heart of my body of work and its soul is in New England. Why is simple: I was born and grew up in New England (Rhode Island), went to college in Massachusetts, caught the downhill skiing bug and saw a bit of the countryside.

Another influence was the home I grew up in: about 1 1/2 acres of garden, my mother’s first love. Flower beds galore, more bushery than you could count, orchards, and of course a vegitable garden large enough for our farmer neighbor to plow. Friends to explore the woods with, a mile walk to school through forests and farms. How lucky can you get. And I have said that over and over again in my life. Downsides: eight hours to cut the grass.

And then the Cape. Ocean Grove. Miles of beach. It never ended. Today, just short of eighty, this is the view from my own seat at the kitchen table

Althought the heart of the work is New England, I traveled to fifteen states and exposed 20,000 sheets of 4" x 5" film in a view camera I carried on my back.

Of these I have digitized over 600 images with resolution to print at 40" x 50". About half of these are shown on this website. To make it easier to familiarize yourself with this work I have divided it into 14 groups by location and subject with examples of each shown below.

1. Finding Images

2. The Mass Pike: The First Find

3. Maine: The Second Find

4. A Guide To My Images

5. The Joy Of Eyes That See

6. I Want to See The Trees

1. Sudbury River


The Sudbury is a small river, beginning in an adjacent town and eventually blending with the Assabet to form the Concord River. By good fortune it was just a few miles from where I lived at the time and so I visited often.

The first image below happend just after an overnight storm. The sun was rising in back of me with a clear horizon and so the trees are beautifully illuminated despite overcast clouds.

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2. I-90, the Mass Pike, Weston, Massachusetts


From 1974 to 1981 I wandered from Alaska through some of the most iconic parks of the west (Brice, Canyonlands, Arches) looking in a sense look for the soul of my work. Although the scenery was magnificant I realized that for the landscape to motivate me would require that I embrace it season after season. In other words, I had to live there. Otherwise I would just be making inferior imitations of images that had been done hundreds or thousands of times. (A close friend and superb photographer, Joseph Holmes, told of photographing at Mono Lake one morning and found 50 tripods in the water. In my 28 years of photographing the landscape I never found a single photogtrapher photographing what I was photographing, although I returned to the same places dozens of time.)

The view from the Mass Pike was a game changer. I think I communicate this best in the verse below. The Pike (a part of Interstate 90) crossed a number of valleys that were filled to level the highway. The highway cut through magnificant arrays of trees that I could now shoot from the level of the tree canopy. These were all deciduous trees and so began to bud in late April and continuted to flower into mid-May. The mixture of other species turned one valley in Weston, Massachusetts into a kind of pointillist autumn. The progress is visible in the images below and in the related gallery.

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So you want to see the trees my friend,
so you want to see the trees—
birds do it and bees and butterflys too,
but only artists of photography and those
in the breakdown lane
will see the whole magnificance,
so cleaverly hidden from view.

This is the whole,
from silver trunk to budding flowers
and not just once,
for every hour its colors change
until its flowers leaf and the season is mature.

Each spring its blossoms turn to leaves
in congregation so
if we are of suitable mind,
will bring a worship of creation.

Trees do not just exalt in sunlight and rain,
they breath for us, so the sea of carbon
becomes the sire of all that grows,
and for our lungs and spirits it provides—
Oh! trees with the spirit of Van Gogh.

My god...I cannot tell you of the glow
in me to see from all places The Pike!,
and sitting on a steel rail
with Boston’s morning business roaring by
a photograph now forever in a museum.

What fortune to find hidden so nearby,
I had never before thought to look.

—JW

3. I-90, the Mass Pike, Millbury, Massachusetts. From an entrance ramp.

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Exit 11 provides the same kind of opportuniities as the Weston Overlook except it faces east into the rising sun and has a vernal pool at the bottom. This, in a way changes everthing thing. Mist is common as is shooting into the rising sun.

Mornings during “shooting season” I would wake before dawn without an alarm (sometimes hoping for a hard rain so I could go back to sleep) and head for the Turnpike entrance in Framingham which allowed me to go either east or west. I rarely had a preference and so would almost let the car decide.

However, as I became aware of the potential of Millbury I went there more and more often. One norning I could see an orange mist billowing and parked under the overpass rather than in the more distant commmuter lot. As I climbed toward the shooting location I knew something good was happening and said to myself “don’t screw it up.” For about 45 minutes, as long as the mist lasted I photographed. Out of about a dozen contendors, two had the mist billoring in kist the right way and I had an image, Spring Sunrise III that sold out its edition.

I have included one image from the fall. In 1991 I turned from facing east to faceing west. I seemed overwhelming that from one position on an Interstate Highway entrance ramp I could make such amazing images. Who would have thoughht? You just had to learn to look, and to see.

JW 0378 EX 11 P4 5

4. Salt Marshes, Massachusetts 1982, New Jersey 1991, A surprising way of making waves.

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Salt marshes were among the first subjects to get close attention, especially along Interstate 190 in Swansee, Massachusetts. The waves were intriguing and I tried many times, but nothing seemed to work. So I went looking up the Massachusetts coast and found the marches near Crane Beach in Ipswich. The coutour of the waves were more elegant, the grasses had many colors weaving through them (see the closeup, JW 0065).

Finally after several visits I caught the sun grazing the topes of a particuarly nice group of waves and so made Salt Marsh Just Before Sunset. It was also the last salt marsh I shot for a number of years. A little exhaustion had set it, but I had the image I was looking for.

Although the marshes in Ipswich were my favorites, I found beautiful marshes in summer on a vist to New Jersey and include here. There are more in the gallery.

JW 0065 P4 5 SALT MARSH

5. Blueberry Barrens, Central Maine, 1986. Acres of Rainbow.

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It was my first shooting trip to Maine. I had no idea where I would go, although Acadia National Park seemed like a good idea. So I drove north to Bangor and then east on 1a towards Ellsworth.

Perhaps it was half or a third of the way to Ellsworth, the light was fading and off to my right was what seemed to be about 15 acres of rainbow. I didn’t have a clue what I was looking at but I got out my 4 by 5 and began to photograph.

A field tilting upward a bit and otherwise flat is ideal for the tilt and twing focusing of a view camera. And so I photographed for the first time, Maine’s wild, but often cultivated blueberry barrens.

Over the years I followed them north to Cherryfield and the Wyman fields, a the largest commercial marketer of Maine’s blueberries.

And so begins the first of many stories and images with some of the best not yet digitized. Below is the first.

There is no logital order to the rest except that it was only my last year that I visited in the spring and I was very glad I did.

In late fall, frost added a great touch as did sunrise and sunset.

6. Beaver Brook & Scratch Flats. Home of John Hansen Mitchell.

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Dreamed Brook
Amidst the Mist

Amidst the Mist

Beaver Brook, Littleton, Massachusetts
October 1987, JW 0496

Song of the Earth

Song of the Earth

Littleton, Massachusetts, July 1987,, JW 0208

JW 5341 D01
JW 5341

7. Upperhadlock Pond, Acadia National Park, Maine


Just Driving By, Again and Again

Reeds, Wind and Water I

Reeds, Wind and Water I

Upper Hadlock Pond, Acadia National Park, Maine. October 1990
cat. JW 0463

Upper Hadlock Pond, Maine

Upper Hadlock Pond, Maine

JW 9946

A Ruffled Stillness

A Ruffled Stillness

Upper Hadlock Pond, Acadia National Park, Maine, October 1987, JW 0588

8. Ledges Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine


Autumn Canopy

Hillside from Ledges Trail
JW 0301

JW 0301

View From Ledges Trail

View From Ledges Trail JW 4547

View From Ledges Trail JW 4547

View From Ledges Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine JW 0265

View From Ledges Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine JW 0265

9. Walden Pond & Greater Walden


Legendary Home of Henry David Thoreau

Walden Gallery

Sunset Through Red Leaves, Walden Pond I

Sunset Through Red Leaves, Walden Pond I

Walden Pond State Reservation, Concord, Massachusetts
October 2001, JW 4658

Vernal Pool, Near Thoreau’s Cabin I

Vernal Pool, Near Thoreau’s Cabin I

Wyman’s Meadow, Walden, Concord, Massachusetts April 1992, cat. JW 0850

Roots, Lichens, Moss And Pine Needles

Roots, Lichens, Moss And Pine Needles

Walden, Concord, Massachusetts. April 1991, cat. JW 3838

Ice And Pine Needles

Ice And Pine Needles

Near Fairhaven Cliffs, Walden Woods, Concord, Massachusetts
March 1995, cat. JW 4505

10. Wyman’s Meaddow


Home of the Water-shield

Water-shields With Reflections

Water-shields With Reflections

Wyman Meadow, Walden, Concord, Massachusetts. October 1991, cat. JW 0608

Dew, Light And Water-shields I

Dew, Light And Water-shields I

Wyman’s Meadow, Walden Pond State Reservation, Concord, Massachusetts. October 1993, cat. JW 4059

Blue Ice And Oak Leaves

Blue Ice And Oak Leaves

Wyman’s Meadow, Walden Pond State Reservation, Concord, Massachusetts. November 1993, cat. JW 4123

Interleaf

Interleaf

Wyman’s Meadow, Walden , Concord, Massachusetts. October 1991, cat. JW 0652

Water-shields and Gold Reflections

Water-shields and Gold Reflections

Wyman’s Meadow, Walden, Concord, Massachusetts. October 1991, cat. JW 4558

Blue Ice And Oak Leaves

Blue Ice And Oak Leaves

Wyman’s Meadow, Walden Pond State Reservation, Concord, Massachusetts. November 1993, cat. JW 4123

11. Ground Covers.


Reindeer Moss and Blueberry Leaves

Reindeer Moss and Blueberry Leaves

Acadia National Park, Maine
September 1992, cat. JW 1222

Textures In Leaves

Textures In Leaves

Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire
October 1992, cat. JW 1307

12. Meadows. Would you like to take a walk?

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13. Grasses. Everywhere, and in finite variety.


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14. Singularities. All alone?


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