When I took my daughter to school yesterday I accompanied her inside to say hello to her teacher who I had not seen for several weeks due to my busy schedule. This is the first year for her school in a new location, an elementary school site that dates from the 1940s. While the location does not have all of the wonderful tall trees and open space of their previous site, this place does have a very agreeable and nostalgic small town school feeling. I had only been there a few times since the school year started and had not yet been out into the playground area. On this morning, I followed my daughter out to the play yard as she grabbed a volleyball for some practice before class started.
Out in the playground there are slanted walls at one end since the yard is built into the side of a hill. In one place there were two large circles painted on these walls, presumably as "targets" for where to aim a ball. The early morning light was shining full on this wall and I was intrigued by the scene and how it appeared when it was visually isolated from all of the other details in the yard and the autumn colors in the trees above it. At first I was disappointed that I could not get close enough to isolate the circles without my own shadow appearing in the frame, but then I saw the possibilities for other layers of meaning with my shadow included.
This is one of those photographs that is a simple and understated view of an ordinary scene, but that can be so much more depending on how you see it and the interpretations you bring to it. Minor White said this best when he observed that "One should not only photograph things for what they are but for what else they are." Another thought in a similar vein is from Henry David Thoreau…"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see".
This is one of the things that I treasure most about photography. It gives us the opportunity to see differently, to find hidden and personally significant meaning in otherwise ordinary scenes, to interpret them in our own, unique way and to create an image of these scenes so that they may be shared with others, who can then find their own interpretations.
Join Me in Iceland Next August for
True North: Photographing the Interpretive Landscape
I'm really looking forward to teaching True North: Photographing the Interpretive Landscape, in Iceland next August 12 - 18. During this workshop, hosted by the excellent team at Focus on Nature, we will spend a week chasing the sweet light in that beautiful country, at a time when the sweet light lasts much longer than in more southerly latitudes. The photographic terrain we will cover will be varied, ranging from the city of Rekyjavik, the hot springs of the blue lagoon, and small harbor towns, to icebergs drifting in a glacial lagoon, rugged seacoasts, majestic waterfalls, vast glaciers on the slopes of active volcanos, and spectacular scenery in one of the world's last great unspoiled landscapes. I hope you'll consider joining me for what is sure to be an excellent travel and photographic experience. Click here for more details.