I believe the same is true for all the arts. There is craftsmanship, and there is art. We struggle to master our craft, hoping to create something worthy of becoming art. We don’t have to do that. There is pleasure in craftsmanship. But when artistry happens, we know something special has occurred. The creation is exhilarating, for both the artist and the audience.
It has been a good week. A lot of volunteer tasks are getting done… various things for the Eastern Shore Writers Association, some photos for a book on the War of 1812, preparing a photography course, finished a writer’s blog interview, and contributing to a workshop project for The Writer’s Center…but one I overlooked was my own inspiration and creativity. That happens to us, doesn’t it? Time is a fickle mistress, sometimes revealing, but often steeped in denial.
That came to an end yesterday. I was blessed to be with other writers listening to a poet and friend, Anne Colwell, speak on “poetic thought.” Her remarks struck a chord with me. Whether writing prose or poetry, much of an author’s voice comes from the sound and flow of language. It is that wonderful music that creates lasting images in our memories. One can extend that to photographic art. Even in silence, the image creates its own cadence within us. It is the magic of the artist’s voice.
I hope to carry this inspiration with me into the week ahead…soothed and awakened.
I’m delighted, even humbled, to be juried into a special exhibit, “Working on the Eastern Shore: A Photographic Study.” The show opens today at the Talbot County Visual Arts Center, in Easton, Maryland, with a public reception. It can be viewed during all of June.
What do I mean by humbled? Much of the exhibit is from a few well established photographers who are known for the excellence of their work in this highly photographed region, with images of the people and natural wonders of the Chesapeake Bay. I’m a newcomer.
Some of the photography is historic, dating back to the 1920’s and 1930’s, showing how people lived off the land and the sea in the region. As I gaze at the images, I’m reminded of the wonderful scene in the film, Dead Poets Society, where the inspiring professor (Robin Williams) tells his young students to gather and look closely at old photographs in the school hallway…images of students and events past. He says, “Shhhh.. listen to them. They are talking to you.” In the silence, he recites the words of a Robert Herrick poem, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying; And this same flower that smiles to-day, To-morrow will be dying.”
The creators of the exhibit said they wanted to display some of the best photography of the Eastern Shore from the 20th Century, including contemporary photos from a few invited photographers. Yes…that is humbling company.
Photographic work from A. Aubrey Bodine, H. Robins Hollyday, David Harp, Peter Gregorio, and David Stevens lead the exhibit. I submitted only one photograph, “Tonging for Oysters,” pictured here, and it was juried into the show.
I selected the image because it reminds me of another time, though it is a contemporary photograph. I remember taking the photo on a cold December morning on the banks of Leadenham Creek, one of the Chesapeake’s many tributaries. There was a dense fog. I could see two watermen in a boat just ahead of me, yet they looked as distant as in another time…Old Time is still a-flying.
Yet this image will live on.
Mankind has always wanted to conjure up the future, yet its mysterious alchemy evades our grasp.
Writers are no different…secretly wanting to predict the next big story trend. A year or two in advance would be great…just enough time to write that next best seller. Well, there may be some clues.
We mark our existence within time. Nothing can send time back, except memories…or our imagination. Within the space that time affords us, there is only so much room for life at the moment. This is an important realization for those who want to know more about the future.
Years ago, a futurist friend of mine, John Naisbitt, taught me a unique perspective about viewing time and space as a way to evaluate major trends that shape our future. The techniques are not new. They were used successfully by our intelligence services. In later years they became helpful in designing communications and marketing programs. Like in so many ventures, the genius comes in the interpretations, like from a perceptive artist…or a trend-setting author.
My friend studied current social events of various countries (and states) to predict future trends, with amazing clarity. The essence of his thoughts was derived from studying local stories in local newspapers. There is only room for so many stories, so many inches on the page…only so much “time” for stories in a broadcast. He categorized, tabulated and analyzed the results. Over a period, major themes and issues became clear…to the gifted interpreter. Conclusion: we can get an accurate glimpse of what is of growing importance to people, at a local level, and what isn’t. By combining the local events across a whole nation, we can get a pretty good understanding of what important trends are rising on the horizon, to last for years to come.
I should point out that national news was excluded in this work. It skewed the results, often in false directions. It’s the smaller, local events that combine to shape major trends. Local events are closest to our daily lives.
We can now measure time byte by byte. Regardless, there is only so much space in time for things to happen…to be reported…to be important to us…to be understood by others. Our attention spans may be shorter, but time and space are unchanged.
Smaller issues come and go, but the repeated ones develop into major trends, shaping our lives and interests in the future. Understanding this phenomenon is a key to understanding communications…knowing which issues or subjects are short-term and which ones have permanence and are truly relevant.
Whether one calls these futurist techniques science or art…our capacity for awareness lies within time and space…whether measured in inches or minutes or bytes. It is the interpretation that requires our genius…from the futurist, the alchemist…or perhaps from the next best selling author.
Inspiration begins with the morning light, when colors are newborn, freshly painted from the sky, skipping across the landscape, carefree, before they bake in the life of day.
– The Morning Light, Copyright 2009 by Wilson Wyatt Jr. (Click on image for full size)
Did you hear the first bird wake? The crickets retreat? This is that private time, the silence between sleep and awake.
This is my time…before thought or duty…when the inner spirit is renewed, opening like a flower, knowing not the past or future, sensing only the images before me, freshly cast, still wet with dew, uncluttered, unaffected.
This is that euphoric time, welcoming creativity, a time to write, seek new images, and shape thoughts never dreamed before.
The morning light…such freedom, such beauty.
Each to their own time. As we are born, and die, and our parts rejoin the earth…a fallen sequoia rests in the forest unaffected, for generations …affording a humble view of our own mortality.
– Photo from YOSEMITE-CATCHING THE LIGHT, Copyright 2011 by Wilson Wyatt Jr. (Click on image for full size)
This image presented unique photographic challenges. I wanted to capture the “feeling” I had in the Mariposa Grove of sequoias, in a cold June rain, as a small being among these giants that have endured three generations of “guests” in the forest. So, Time was one quality to capture. Lighting was another issue. How does a photographer render the many shades of “black” in the tangled ancient roots from this tree…a root ball almost three stories tall…while capturing the array of greens from the moss and surrounding forest, without the image being “blown out” by the sky? I also wanted the image to portray the dimension of size, comparing this mammoth to its surroundings, like the old, broken trail fence and the new growth of young trees. So often, nature is impossible to replicate. A photographer can only do his best.
This fallen tree will remain here, unchanged, long after I depart this earth…but I had the opportunity to witness it in my lifetime.