I was originally trained in mathematics.   When I came to photography I saw that much of my habit as a mathematician could be useful here too. For one thing , it is natural to do the work in solitude. For another, one begins with only a handful of simple axioms and uses them again and again in the creation of new knowledge. Associative Law. Distributive Law. Clunky, simple things applied to the simplest ordinary concepts (a set of elements, union and intersection of sets--child's play!) Each new creation makes more possible the ones that follow. Something advances. It's very like this in doing landscape photography here. One sits with a few basic elements and builds with those. Rectangles of tone. Scattering. Scattering of stubble and gravel and eddies in mud and skyward eddies too. Scattering of shape and line. In photography, as in mathematics, we begin with a  language and a method.  As we work to fit these to a world, we might ourselves become fitted to it.  A good photograph persuades us to look into it for an insight, something truthful.   And it is like a good mathematical proof at least in these ways: it makes a page that is mysteriously beautiful; it prefers economy of expression; it is irrefutable.

 

For the last half billion years or so the place where I live was a shallow tropical ocean.  From time to time the water was replaced by dense forests. The water came back. This cycle was repeated many times. Thick layers of sandstone and limestone built up over carbon deposits of the forests. Eventually  glaciers more than a mile high moved from the north and as they melted deposited their embedded silt and clay upon the stony surface and left the flat rich prairies.  Here and there receding glaciers left enormous lakes which broke through embankment and emptied themselves sometimes in just a few hours. These cataclysmic  torrents carved river valleys and sculpted topography. This ended about twelve thousand years ago. There would have been people here not long after, as soon as things warmed up a bit. Then in only the most recent moment, Europeans showed up here, including my ancestors, Irish and Scots arrived after being delayed in Virginia and Carolina. Sometimes a photograph makes it seem as though our grip on this place is tentative and it's easy to see it all swept away by some violent natural cataclysm. Prompted by our own action no doubt. But we're here for now.

 

                   End in Sight

Home