“No matter what your work, let it be your own. No matter what your occupation, let what you are doing be organic. Let it be in your bones. In this way, you will open the door by which the affluence of heaven and earth shall stream into you.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
WIND BLOWN AND TATTERED COLLECTION: A GLIMPSE
Bandon beach, May of 2020
What I want to say with these simple beach irises is important to me. I wish to share with the viewer how these tattered flowers spoke to me that windy day. Their message was not a new one, but rather a validation of emotions simmering in my heart.
The art of photography is really challenging me these days, as are the issues of our time. I find it increasingly important to say something with my work and am no longer satisfied with simply creating a pretty picture. This complicates my artistic process, but also makes it more rewarding in a way that is difficult to describe. I long to understand how authenticity and vision translate into the art of photography for me personally. And, I think I’m beginning to get glimmers of what that is. My recent “Wind Blown and Tattered” collection is an example of one of those glimmers.
I’m reminded of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote about the importance of learning to tune into our intuition:
“A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.”
Shooting these wild, yellow irises at the edge of the shore was a profound metaphor, difficult to ignore. These fadingly beautiful, slightly tattered, but intact blooms were being beaten and tossed about in the coastal wind. The salty gusts relentlessly whipped their yellow silk back and forth. From time to time, the wind would suddenly subside allowing a momentary pause, prior to revving up and throwing them about again.
As I drove home from this windy shoot I couldn’t help but reflect on a favorite Albert Einstien quote:
“Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.”
The metaphors of nature point to insights that can help clarify complicated issues of humanity. If we pay attention, the dynamics we see play out in our wild world can provide illumination and validation. This in turn may calm our souls and/or lead us in the right direction. As I looked through my lens, it was hard for me to fathom how these seemingly delicate flowers could survive the ravages of such weather. Their beauty was a bit worn, but still shone through and withstood the hardship. I respected them so. Life can be hard, and we do feel tosseled, thrown or even beaten up at times. Unfortunately, some more than others, and unjustly so.
In the real world, it is painful to watch injustices. We feel heart broken and powerless. And that is how it should be. We should experience pain, alarm, sadness and anger when unjustices are inflicted on us or our fellow human beings. That is an indicator that we are caring individuals and that pain can move us to action. We are witnessing that presently in the streets across our nation.
My heart is broken for George Floyd. It is broken for all of the George Floyds across the world that have suffered unfairly and are still suffering. We can do better as individuals and as a nation and world…and I think we are trying to do so. Life during these times can be disorienting and exhausting. And a sense of powerlessness to do anything can lead to anxiety and anger.
As it pertains to me, and this blog post on authenticity and art, this is what I know; If I am afraid to say or use my art to reveal what I am thinking and feeling, then it increases my sense of powerlessness. Silence does give permission and this makes me complicit. Many times I have been reticent to speak out for fear it will cause conflict, and, heaven forbid, lead to a drop in business with my photography or our motel business in Bandon.
If I am to be authentic in my artwork, or simply as a person, then hiding what I am truly experiencing is a far cry from authenticity. For me, it would be akin to being in a relationship and hiding huge parts of who I am for fear of losing the love of my desired one. It may work temporarily, but not for the long haul. Living behind a chronic veil of fear, or cloaked in neutrality or complacency can take its toll on our soul.
For me, right now, I need a way to express my grief over the murder of George Floyd. I need to find a way to protest the injustice of his murder in a way that makes sense for me. I need to find a way not to be silent. And if I can do that, even so humbly, through my images and words, then I feel less powerless.
Witnessing those irises withstanding ravishes of weather, told me that strength and power come in the form of flexibility and the willingness to adapt. They illuminated the notion that strength and power manifest through the courage to continue to rise and press on rather than give up in the face of hardship and hurt.
It’s painful to see the the scenes of further police violence, the destruction of our cities, personal property and the loss of livelihood through destruction of small businesses.
But to every officer, politician or civilian that can take a knee or lock arms and walk with peaceful, rightgeous protesters, I salute you.
And to every protester that can stay planted in the ground of their belief and withstand the weather of injustice by fighting with dignity and truth, I salute you.
“We are constantly invited to be who we are.”
– Henry David Thoreau
A word on vision
When I contemplate vision, I think of inspired authenticity.
And, I think this may be developed through learning to listen to the voice within, our intuition.
So, perhaps it is learning to create and give something of ourselves.
If I have something to give you through camera, it must be of myself… A gnawing burns inside … to make something of myself worth giving
~ Minor White