Monday, December 6, 2010

Back to the Forests . . .

After pining away over the locale of the forest photo shoot, I came across a few lines in the *book I am currently reading - "When Wordsworth chided him for not caring enough about nature, Charles wrote, 'I have no passion for groves and valleys. The rooms where I was born, the furniture which has been before my eyes all my life, a huge book case which has followed me about like a faithful dog where ever I have moved - old chairs, old streets, squares where I have sunned myself, my old school - have I not enough, with out your Mountains? I do not envy you. I should pity you, did I not know, that the Mind will make friends of any thing.' "

This reminded me first of the spot in my parent's house in the front room where the sun would come in through the window just so and lay prettily on the burnt orange carpet. I loved to play with my plastic dinosaurs and read there.

Second, it brought to mind a photography book I read some time ago. The author kept suggesting that to achieve the most lasting and poignant work, artists should stick close to those things which are most familiar to them. As different masters were cited throughout the rest of the text it would always be reaffirmed that they achieved their highest success through the pictures taken in or around their home. Arbus photographed the freaks on her streets. Sudek liked the look of objects against his rainy window pane. Eggleston took pictures of his freezer. And on and on. I started to get the point and then forgot about it.

Sometimes I get tired of my surroundings. Florescent lights at school. Stacks of paper. Lots of teenagers trying to fit a mold. At home I feel surrounded by generic Truman Show-like subdivisions. Everyone's house looks the same. All the people look the same. Where are my lovely freaks? My English countryside? I look at people's lives on the internet and think,"I'm stuck in Utah. They're in Paris, Saudi Arabia, India!" But these are my surroundings and when I slow down enough I can get a glimpse of the beauty in this seemingly banal existence through familiarity.

Creativity can be fostered anywhere and I feel that Lamb's words were a great reminder of that. Things don't need a lush backdrop to be stunning. There are meaningful pictures I can take of things that strike me as interesting. And this doesn't just apply to photography. My friend Tara was diagnosed with brain cancer and spends a lot of time at home with her daughter. She has painted beautiful depictions of her experiences. My favorite posts from my sister-in-law's blog when she was in England were not about the trips to the Eiffel tower or Colosseum but of her day to day life in their tiny flat. When my mother calls from home it's not the stories about so and so's daughter or son doing this and that at Harvard that are the most memorable, but the little thing my niece said.

While I understand and keenly feel the enticements of the new and exotic, I don't want to lose perspective and satisfaction with my own life trying to live it for the invisible crowd. So, I may not live in one of the most interesting places in the world and I may lack a high class camera, lighting set-up, good editing software, even some basic artistic knowledge and education, but I can work with what I've got to create with what is around me. I can practice, I can learn, I can fail sometimes, and I can see and experience things only as I can.

*The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which I noticed at the bookstore because John's ancestors, the LeSueurs, came from that island, and then which I also spurned because it looked too "book-clubbish." I then became interested in it again when my mother, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law all recommended it. I was finally done in while finding it on the shelf at my in-laws' home when I had finished Asher Lev and was without anything to read.


whitney allison said...

I'm too afraid to read this post because that book is supposed to come to me in the mail today from Amazon!

holtkamp said...

i love this post mel...i've also heard that potatoe peel book is good! i love all your pictures. sometimes the best pictures are the non-edited ones :) with all this technology sometimes it seems like every picture is overly photo-shopped, ha, ha :)

i know what you mean about feeling tired with your surroundings. luckily, we've moved so much that i'm not bored for long. but i like the space you and john have created!