Today I will take a picture. Perhaps it’s a windblown bird lighting on a stony ledge, the color of the late afternoon sun pouring amber like honey on a rose, ice floes on the river, apple blossoms splayed by moonlight, the red and gold of autumn reflected in the lake, sunbeams cutting thickets in a shady grove, or perhaps it is a city landscape coming alive--the streets and cars covered with snow, or old folks and young lovers on park benches, the lonely ones, those with hungry eyes, the one with her entire fortune in a shopping bag, billboards beckoning false promises. In a split second I see the subject, consider the slant of light, the contrast, vividness, the blend and clash of color, the impact of motion . . . I snap the shutter button and the camera clicks as if to acknowledge all the mental and physical preparations of the shoot, from the work of a favorite 19th century poet to a technical manual read that morning. The image, now coded on a card in the camera, is ready for editing on computer software and for printing. Next are infinite choices about color, focus texture, composition, light . Perhaps I will experiment with different papers for a flat matted appearance, a glossy shine, or a metallic glimmer--testing the way each one works.
In my youth I was an avid black and white photographer with a darkroom where I learned to develop and print my own work. I took courses in film and photography in Amherst, Mass. and NYC and worked as a resident photographer at an arts community in Cummington, Mass. I was hired as an apprentice editor in a small film company on the upper west side of Manhattan back when movies were made in 35 mm. I loved watching the editor matching film to sound and accompanying older professional filmmaker friends on their shoots or living room screenings where they discussed works in progress with their friends--artists, dancers, teachers, doctors, poets. Of course it wasn’t all good: once while editing a film segment I cut my finger on the splicer. The producer freaked out: “Don’t get blood on the film!” he bellowed.
Later I earned the credentials to teach literature and composition, a career which took me to colleges and universities around the country from Amherst, Massachusetts to Missoula, Montana. But eventually I returned to (one of) my home town(s) in the Berkshire hills of Massahcusetts with my old friends--a camera and an updated darkroom (otherwise known as Lightroom). The mental and physical processes of photography are still all engrossing and a healthy antidote to the noisy chatter and clatter of everyday life--bills, medical and insurance challenges, impenetrable technology, dysfunctional and awful politics, mechanical/electronic breakdowns, etc. It is time for small miracles--a cardinal flitting onto a branch outside my kitchen window looking straight at me and me at him.
As I look at my own work I find it moving in the direction of an impressionist aesthetic--the wedding of living forms with impressionist techniques that I learned about mostly through many visits to the Clark Art Institute in western Massachusetts, especially the Impressionist room with its exquisite Renoirs and Monets. I have exhibited up and down the Berkshires, from South County to North.
Today I will take a picture.