A photograph has a soul of its own. It represents something we have seen and want to keep as a memento, a special event or occasion encountered. A moment captured in time and space that can stir memories and create fantasies. The more we look, the more we see. The more we see, the more we respond.
It’s said that the photographer communicates in the language of light, form and color. And so is it any wonder that my love of photography is so connected to this journey of my spirit – both containing positives and negatives, black, white, and color, and of course darkness and light.
During the past few days I’ve set out on foot with my camera and my three canine companions to capture signs of Spring. I found myself drawn to the trees in various stages of new growth along the country roads we traveled. Photographer Joyce Tenneson observes, “Trees, throughout history have inspired deep symbolic meaning in cultures around the world. The ‘tree of life’ metaphor expresses the mystical concept that all forms of life are connected. When we stand with the trees, we feel they are part of us. They give us a sense of belonging to the greater universe.” In his book Small Graces, Kent Nerburn says of trees”[T]hey shave so much to teach us. Like us, their roots are unseen, and no matter how glorious the front they put up for the world, their true strength lies in the hard work that takes place unnoticed beneath the surface.They have good years and bad years and yet they endure. They know how to withstand all seasons, to be patient with adversity, to store up strength for the hard times. When the wind blows, they understand the power of the unseen, and bow their heads before it.”
When I made my living with photography, I specialized in portraits of people and capturing their esssence. Although people have now been replaced by trees, I still find that I am seeking a spiritual element in my subjects. My thoughts resonate with Joyce Tenneson when she says, “As with my people portraits I seek to reveal in a single frame, the complex lives of trees – including their hardships and tragedies. Perhaps this is why I’ve been drawn to photograph trees with broken and misshapen forms, as well as those whose strong presence give them an aura of benevolent power. Their life journey is visible as is often true of the human face…I have found in nature ‘icons’ that speak to me personally.”
I took a photograph two-three years ago during a walk through the woods. An old tree had fallen and it’s crown was covered by a blanket of snow. There was something powerful about it that spoke to me and I snapped the shutter. While in the darkroom developing the print I was drawn to the image even more and I printed it over and over, varying the contrast by manipulating the amount of light that hit the negative.
I realized the small photograph is a symbol of my life. Although it is predominately black and white, it has many shadings and combinations of those two contrasts. The background is tangled and blurred, but the foreground gives way to the strength and beauty of the paths of branches that lead back to the unseen.