20 Jun An Occurrence at Morgan Creek
My friend John Davis moved to Durham to teach third grade a couple of months after we moved to Chapel Hill in the summer of 2013. I was pleased to have the opportunity to hang out with him and make a couple of videos for his last record “Spare Parts“. For “The Wrong Tree” I shot a lot in the meadow behind my house. I’ve been shooting a lot of photos and videos in the meadow since I got here.
Yesterday John came by with his father. He sat down to give my daughter some pointers on math (he’s a really great teacher), and I went for a walk around the meadow with his father even though it was 100 degrees and humid. Morgan creek runs along the bottom of hill so I cracked a joke about the Preston Sturgess film “The Miracle of Morgan Creek”. Since he’s about the same age as my father would be -were he alive- I figured he’d get it, but he thought I was talking about a short story that had creek in the name. I quickly realized that he was talking about the Ambrose Bierce story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge“. Earlier in the day I had read a post about storytelling by my friend Jezra Kaye. In it she talked about how we remember dramatic moments from stories that move us for years and years. I had remembered the powerful affect that seeing “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge” in grade school had had on me, so it was easy for me to make the connection.
As we walked I shot a few videos of insects on plants, and when we got back to my house I showed him a book that I had put together of some of the images I had made in the meadow the previous year. Today I looked up the film of “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge”. Even though I hadn’t seen it in probably 20 years I was shocked to recall a great deal of the images. The film is fantastic. It’s set during the civil war and focuses on a Rebel saboteur. Just before the main character is to be hung for his crime of attacking a bridge he has draws on his memories of his wife and child. When the board that is supporting him is removed he drops, but the rope breaks and he falls into the river below. When he surfaces he zeroes in on the leaves, and the insects, and a spider, clearly seeing these creatures with re-born eyes. These images look exactly like the ones I have been making in the meadow. They can be seen between 10:30 and 11:15 in this video below.
A couple of years ago I wrote about how my photography was unconsciously affected by having a Helen Levitt book of photos laying around the house when I was a kid. It was pretty shocking to me to come across this set of images that so closely resemble the work I have been doing. While making these images I have become increasingly aware of a life force, or will to live that exists in the meadow, and I like to shoot as if I am seeing the world, and that will to live, in a new way everyday. While I remembered a number of images from the film I didn’t recall these, but it really is surprising to see how closely they resemble my work in both content and intent.