I love to photograph people, but masks (worn of necessity) make that impossible, since I want the whole face. So during our collective quarantine, I’ve begun to redo older photos, or ones that I’ve never exhibited publicly, or ones that I didn’t give a second look to but kept anyway (a benefit of being a pack rat). These are, significantly, “nature” photos, without people, that reveal the natural world in some way. And suddenly I’ve found that I’m much more involved with the natural world than before—after all, it’s there to see all the time, quarantine-less, each minute different, the light changing constantly, the source of light itself. The natural world doesn’t necessarily want to kill us; on the contrary, it’s a refuge from the threat, our larger home whether we acknowledge it or not, an ongoing truth when all else is complicated and even deadly.
If we would all just go outside and look around, our walls would not seem as closed in when we return to them. My husband remembers being in the hospital years ago for an extended period, forbidden to leave his room. When he was released he said the world seemed so vast and unmanageable; he got so used to the small parameters of his room after all that time that anything larger made him off-kilter. It must be the same for released prisoners; the bars are your boundaries, and anything larger can’t be comprehended right away. But we are not prisoners, or hospital patients; all we have to do is step outside, or even look out a window.
Exploring the natural world is how I began as a photographer; we all did. Now, with the temporary depopulation of the human world, I’ve begun to see differently; I enhance these photos so that they shimmer with the new eyes I’ve found during this enforced isolation. A kind of jousting with color, light, time, fundamentals of form and composition, and always with beauty, to pare away old reflexes and penetrate to what’s important, essential. How did the Japanese masters see the world? I am trying to find out and see it that way too, through a purposeful delicacy of vision and of hand, corresponding to the vulnerability that has invaded our lives.
I took some of these photos in late March
(2020), early in the shutdown. I got in the car one day and drove to my
favorite peaceful spot, the original Shaker settlement founded by Ann Lee, about 20 minutes from where I
live, next to the airport (that day only a few planes were flying, so it was
even quiet). Along with some of the original buildings, there are trails
through the woods and a pond that in the summer is overgrown with waterlilies.
Other photos were taken at the site in different years, and still others taken
in different locations in eastern New York and the Mohawk Valley. I don’t say
that these photos are all successful, in terms of what I was trying to
accomplish, and you may find some less compelling than others. But they're a
record of my ongoing process using my “new eyes.” Rumi calls them
something a little wiser: “Walk
instead with the other vision given you, your first eyes.”