the photoshooter's journey from taking to making

WIDWID

By MICHAEL PERKINS

YEAR THREE OF THE GREAT HIBERNATION. Another four seasons of ducking, dodging, hoping, praying, holding one’s breath and occasionally expelling a few primal screams. Life as it is lived now.

Along the way, I have followed the commentary of many photographers on how this seismic shift in priorities and objectives has permanently changed the way they see, and, in turn, the way they make pictures. How could it not? We’re all now a strange admixture of commentator, war correspondent, spurned lover and satirist, filtering every image through a very different eye. Even the act of doing an end-of-year inventory of shots that both hit and missed, we can track a pattern in the evolving needs of our seeing.

One thing that’s incredibly ironic in my own case is that the confinement of The After Time has forced me to at least try to make some minor breakthrough in my landscape work, demonstrably my weakest suit over a lifetime. Whereas the Ansels of the world would look out upon nature and see endless variations on the themes of Majesty and Harmony, I would just see….trees. Certainly wonderful trees, cool trees, but trees that, somehow, didn’t shout messages at me in the clear, insistent tones of the things that arise from city streets, regardless of where I am. But a funny thing happened on the way to Please Don’t Let Me Catch This Crud. Forced to remove myself from a lot of public places, I found myself with two simple choices: take pictures of what was currently in front of me (increasingly rural, outdoor areas), or just stop shooting altogether.

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Now, I’d love to stand here and say that I have achieved some kind of epiphany as a result, that my landscape work now possesses the eloquence of angels and poets, but what has happened is that, by virtue of a major challenge to what was going to be in front of me, I have begun to react a bit more creatively to subject matter that I had always regarded as, well, just “nice” or “pretty”. The power of silence and solitude is upon me a bit more, now…..not enough to transform me into Thoreau, but sufficiently effective in helping me “get” what’s in front of me.

What do you call it? Growing up? Learning how to “simplfy”? Getting out of my own way? Learning to hear the quiet?

Damn. When I try to put it into words, I sound like the liner notes from a Rod McKuen album (look it up, X-ers). But when I rediscovered the shot you see here, from a particularly rich summer-of-22 weekend spent at close quarters with lakes and forests near Show Low, Arizona, I can remember that some extra something kicked in. And, with luck, will stay in.

The formula for WIDWID (Why I Do What I Do) has been altered. I see differently now.

Hopefully the pictures will follow.

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