02 Jun Meadowing for Insight and Insects
About 2 years ago my wife and I took our kids from Brooklyn to temporarily live in the house in North Carolina that I grew up in. We came on a trial basis, but it has slowly become a semi-permanent situation. The wildly slower pace of life here has been embraced by the kids, and it has begun to grow on us as well. For the first year I was back and forth to Brooklyn frequently for work. I missed the energy of the city terribly even as I liked being in North Carolina. By the following year I began to find my trips to NY somewhat overwhelming. Our bodies, and our brains, adjust to our surroundings and I was starting to become a non-city person once again.
When I first moved to New York in 1987 I was exhausted for the first three months. I was like my cats when they went outside for the first time; no detail escaped my notice so it took me a long time to make it down a single block. It was exhilarating to notice so much, but my brain quickly began the process of filtering out information. Soon I was like most other New Yorkers, walking around with my invisible shield, hearing and seeing less and less, yet hyperstimulated on an unconscious level at the same time. Looking back I realize that I started to have symptoms of anxiety during my first semester. I chalked it up to the heavy course load, but it also had to do with figuring out how to process so much new information. In my sophomore year I had a few migraines. I loved the city, and its energy, but looking back I can see that it also took a toll on me.
When I was a kid there was a cow pasture behind our house. Now it is a public green space with a path that circles it. The first fall that we were there a friend asked me to make some photographs for her. I had spent a lot of time the previous few years doing street photography, so I saw this as a way to combine that process with nature photography. I was not a fan of plant or animal photos in general, so I tried to do it in a different way.
At about the same time I began to try to meditate. I took the opportunity to turn the photography into a part of that practice. Each day I tried to find a new way of looking at the space, to find new things to notice. It’s been a year and a half now and I am continuing that process. Having seen the space go through it’s whole cycle and start again I find myself finding new ways of seeing it. Looking back through the work I can see a very definite progression in terms of focus and style. I ended up working in black and white because the images hold together better and black and white pulls out the textures and the shapes. Some of the color photos are stunning in themselves, but they feel very undifferentiated.
I have done all of my shooting with my iphone, posting images almost daily. Last fall I upgraded to an iphone 6 which shoots slow motion images. The sound of these clips is almost as interesting as the images. I have begun to shoot insects in slow motion and have an idea for a gallery show with these images projected on each wall of a small black box, with their sound intermingling. This black box would be in the center of the room and the sound would bleed out. The walls would house eye level 30 by 30 inch images from the series. For the most part my mode of work is to get low, at the level of the insects. I also see doing a kind of long experimental feature that includes images of my children and cats at play. The gallery show feels like it should be just the meadow, but the feature feels like it might be more interesting if it moves between the different worlds. I also want to make a book. I think I have about 8 or 9 hundred strong images. Most of the good shooting takes place in the fall and spring as things rapidly change. I’ll probably shoot through the fall before I finalize the project.
Observing the way that the plants, the insects, my cats, and my kids transition through the different cycles and impulses has been mind expanding. Living outside the city has broadened my horizons considerably. Having lived in the city for so long has given me a new perspective on the world that I grew up in.