A new directionNovember 20, 2019
I’m taking my photography in a new direction. For years, I’ve been trying to photograph the landscape in such a way that denies the presence of human influence.
Recently I was on a trip to southern California and did some photography with 35mm infrared film. We were staying at a town called Three Rivers which is literally 1 mile from the entrance to Sequoia National Park. I was out early with my old original 35mm camera (1963 vintage) and a several prime lenses. I was trying to photograph the surrounding trees and landscape using my “O’Brien eye”. To explain, my wife always teases me about the way I go into dense underbrush to photograph. She sees something she thinks I might like to photograph and says, “There’s an O’Brien”. I take it as a complement and I know she means it to be. After all my series “Sienna Woods” was born from this approach.
When I processed the film some days after the Sequoia trip and started to isolate images to print from the contact sheets, I noticed that the images that worked had evidence of human presence. I was disappointed when I started to print a shot with power lines. Having noticed that I decided to print it anyway. Well because of the power lines, my heart wasn’t in it and the print got torn up later. Some days later, I went back to the darkroom and tried printing another image from the same roll. It was an old tree with a corner of black sky. I noticed that two power lines were running through the sky area. Very disturbing, but then I noticed that there was a light fixture attached to the tree trunk, with electric cords attached as well. I suddenly decided to put energy into making a quality print. When I removed it from the drying rack the next morning, I decided that I liked the image and intended to call it “Wired”. Afterwards, I printed at least one other image like it. So looking back at my work, there are several successful images that have some small hint of human influence. Apparently this has been creeping into my work for some time. So is this a new direction? Perhaps I have older images that I didn’t print because of this. I suspect that in future, I may start to look for such things. I don’t want them to overpower the image, but would like to see them there if they create tension and wonder for the viewer.
I’ve attached 4 recent images from that trip including one other older image from Kangaroo Ridge. Some didn’t like the fence on the left. I decided long ago that it needed to be there.
Note that in Three Rivers California, the presence of humans is very subtle. Probably not easily seen at this size.