Photography: The Good, the Weird and the Fascinating

I really don’t get a lot of downtime. With 6 children, our homestead and an ever-present pile of laundry that can never be vanquished completely, my hands stay pretty busy.  I like it that way; TV really isn’t my thing, and anytime I pick up a book a battle royale breaks out between some (or all) of the kids anyway. Video games are a big black hole of wonderful that I lose myself in way too easily, and have to be avoided lest the house burn down around me. Between the cats and frequent residence of bottle fed baby goats, my crocheting and knitting just get unraveled. Instead I’ve had to pick up interests that can be quickly abandoned, tucked into my pocket and returned to when the chaos has died down a little. 

I was introduced to photography this past spring by a brief friend, to use as a form of therapy. A way to quiet the demons and refocus, to inquire and inspire. I’m waiting for our tax return, and the chance to purchase the DSLR camera I’ve been drooling over for months, like a well-behaved kid in December. When that coveted item is finally in my hands I won’t be using it for cutely-posed portraits. 

I’m enthralled with the things that are all around us, but no one wants to see. The things we condition ourselves to look away from. The ordinary and everyday that people choose to be blind to. Inconvenient truths, evidence of the flaws of humanity in general. 

Roadkill, laying silently by the asphalt or wherever they were able to crawl before their injuries overtook them. Unpleasant, gory, a necessary price to pay in order to further ourselves. Our eyes are trained to pass over these little tragedies, to dismiss them in an instant. Mortality, even so small, is never pleasant. 

Trash littering the sides of pristine rural roads, being slowly digested. The natural world growing over it, around it, despite it. Its beauty continuing despite being fouled by refuse. I’m guilty of it; the number of cigarette butts, balled up receipts and empty juice boxes I’ve tossed is abysmal. Still, there’s beauty in it. 

I love the dichotomy of nature and the modern world, and the points where they intersect. Convenience meets persistence, old and new entwined. Progress versus process and the places they overlap. 

Farms with old outbuildings standing amongst the new, more functional ones. Blinding sunlight glinting off steel silos while old wooden corn cribs rot away beside. Modernity and antiquity in the same blink of an eye. 

I’m drawn to signs of all sorts.  They represent decision, silent communication one place removed. Some are warnings, commands, requests. Some offer advice, some lend identity to a road or place. We take them for granted. They’re just there, always. 

There’s an old marshy pond surrounded by expensive houses, backed by farmland. It’s the first place to hear the frogs in the spring and the last place they remain in the autumn. It takes on a smell during the hottest days of summer but remains a beautiful oasis. I often withstand the mosquitoes in order to stop for a few minutes on my way home from the store. 

Found object or repurposed DIY projects are a huge draw. Everyday items that are, in fact, quite different from their contemporary counterparts are a big interest too. I could spend hours examining the workmanship, taking the piece apart and rebuilding it in my mind. That ingenuity is so inspiring, and a reminder that others are (and have been) rejecting consumerism in order to make use of what they have instead. 

I compulsively hoard odd little mementos of my mother. Her signature on the paper I had it taken from for the tattoo I got in her honor, not three months after her death. I carry it in my wallet, to have a piece of her close at all times. Still an anchor to everything she was, to every part of her still alive in me. I know someday it’ll fall out, or blow out of my fingers to be lost to the wind, so I take photos of it. More tiny anchors that I’ll never pull from the sea. 

 I see beginnings and endings everywhere. Tiny acorns buried in the leaves, ancient trees whose sparse leaves drop before all the others. The last three years have been nothing but that, beginnings and endings. They’re always in our peripheral, even when they’re not a forefront of our lives. I like finding where they hide. 

Things that are discarded but remain in plain sight each day. Not like garbage, that disappears into the back of a truck every week; the things that have no further purpose but our eyes pass over each day. They sit, they rot, they slowly disappear into the soil while we step around them. Worn treads from a tractor or snowmobile, left in a pile by the driveway, and a huge cement cylinder being overgrown a little ways away caught my eye while picking up my daughters from a Halloween party recently. The property owners were a bit perplexed, but gave me permission to photograph them. When I climbed back into the car my 8 year old informed me “You’re pretty weird, Mom. But I like you that way.”

Sometimes there are little corpses on our porch in the morning, the remnants of the barn cats’ early breakfast. They leave the ruins behind in favor of napping with full bellies, then the wasps descend. Finally, once everyone has finished, I sweep the remnants off the edge and into the grass. More beginnings and endings, another unpleasant yet ever-present part of life on our homestead.  

Sometimes one of the dogs find old bones out in the woods and brings their trophy back to the house to gnaw and smugly display. A disarticulated deer leg appeared in our garden this spring, a pelvis and spinal column was the source of more than a few fights until we finally threw it out. Leaving large bones around is a great way to discourage door-to-door salesmen and the annual visits from certain religious types anyway.

I love to take photos of sunsets, landscapes, my family and our animals- more acceptable, ‘normal’ subject matter. I’m completely infatuated with travel and all its various parts; airports, buses, truck stops and train stations. I love to watch people move through a large area like ants swarming from an anthill; intent on leaving point A behind in favor of point B, oblivious to everything around them except reaching their destination as quickly as possible. The seamless flow of energy coursing through like a circuit, each little insect rushing to meet its goal. A sort of silent code of honor known to all, to keep your head down and propel yourself forward as fast as you can. 

Photography has become an obsession, an itch that I just can’t fully scratch. My poor late-model iPhone has been threatening to die on me for months but reluctantly agrees to resurrect with serious coaxing each time. The folks at the Apple Store just shake their heads. I’m 32 years old and expect to wear out a few cameras before I meet my end, and can’t wait to get started. I’m looking forward to finding new subject matter along the way; some standard, and some that might be a little disturbing. All of it is beautiful to me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s