Gravestone, Trinity Church, Newport, Rhode Island, 2008
Death is part of life, and I weave the strands of both life and death together in this image. This gravestone, a slab resting upon the top of a tomb, plays host to vegetation that flourishes and perishes along with the seasons. I use color to define the line between life and death here. The rich green of the living plants, the reddish brown of dead vegetation, and the words memorializing the dead who lie beneath the slab, are inextricably linked here. Within the letters of those words rest fragments of red decay, adding still another layer of symbolic meaning to this image.
Mahraja, Moncumbu, Kerala, India, 2008
A decorated bust pays homage to the memory of one of Moncumubu's maharajas. He ruled this tropical state in the 19th century, and his plumage seems right at home among the palms, a Victorian gazebo, and fluffy cumulous clouds.
Remembering Ho, Can Tho, Vietnam, 2008
A huge bronze statue of Ho Chi Minh, painted in silver, dominates the waterfront of Can Tho. At night it becomes a beacon that can be seen from blocks away. I made this photograph from the window of my hotel room. Many travel photographers enjoy making pictures at night, using tripods, small apertures and long time exposures. To make such images expressive, however, there needs to be some degree of abstraction, incongruity, or human values present. In this image, the fact that Ho Chi Minh is silver – an unusual color for a public statue – makes it incongruous. The lights on the roofs of the buildings in the distance add context and Vietnamese atmosphere to the scene. Since I do not carry a tripod on my travels, and had to make use of the windowsill for stability, I could not use a small aperture and long time exposure for this image. Instead, I used my zoom lens at its widest aperture, selected my full telephoto reach of 420mm, and employed a slow, but not long, shutter speed of 1/8th of a second. There is still enough depth of focus here to include both Ho Chi Minh, who was a block away, and the buildings well behind him.
After making this photo, I made some experimental photographs of light in motion, zooming my lens while the shutter was open. To see the result, click on the thumbnail below.
In memoriam, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2007
The last image I made in Santa Fe, and quite fittingly one of the last of my entire journey through Indian Country, was this photograph of an art print mounted on a slab that to me appeared to be shaped like an oversized grave marker. The artist portrays an idealized Indian, brooding under a stylized moon. Yet when I walked back and photographed it from a distance, it appeared to become a memorial to a vanishing culture. The slashes of lingering light on the ground around the slab echo the stripes on the Indian’s blanket, and the darker I made the image in post processing, the more somber it became.
Paradise lost, Denver, Colorado, 2007
I returned again and again over a three-day period to this garden behind a Denver art gallery. Each time, the light told a different story. In this image, shadows engulf the nude sculpture and its immediate surroundings. Yet the brick wall of an adjacent building turns flame red in the late evening sun. The sculpture is surrounded in lush, living greenery, yet the fiery brick wall behind it suggests the opposite. I use a vertical frame and a wideangle focal length to lead into the subject. It has come so far, and can go no further – its gesture asks for directions. But none will come.
Bear Flag Monument, Sonoma, California, 2007
On June 14, 1846, a small group of armed American settlers, displeased with Mexican rule of California, seized Sonoma and raised the "Bear Flag" of the "California Republic" over its plaza. It was the first in a series of events that eventually led to the US annexation of the California region. This statue stands on the spot where that flag was raised. I photographed the bronze monument in mid afternoon, using the reflected light falling on the scene to bring out the natural colors in the bronze and the surrounding leaves. The statue is amazingly compatable with the tree next to it -- the thrust of the flag echoes the lean of its branches and trunk.
Palace of the Fine Arts, San Francisco, California, 2007
Architect Bernard Maybeck designed this lavish structure for the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition. It was built as a temporary wood and plaster structure. When the exposition closed, money was raised to duplicate the building with permanent materials, but the process took 40 years. In the 1960s, philanthropist Walter S. Johnson led a drive the rescue the crumbling palace from demolition, and in 1975 it was presented as gift to the people of San Francisco. The classical beauty of Maybeck’s vision is still fresh in this photograph. I used indirect reflected light on this image as well. I emphasized the figures closest to the lens, forcing them to flow into the smaller figures behind them. The towering urns in the background give an overall sense of scale to the massive structure.
Dance, Herberger Theatre Center, Phoenix, Arizona, 2007
There are four groups of larger than life bronze sculptures outside the entrance of this theatre. Created by Arizona sculptor John Henry Waddell in the 1970s, they are collectively titled “Dance.” One of the bronze dancers was lunging forward, her body nearly touching the brick plaza in front of the theatre. Normally, 11:00 am is not the best time for outdoor photography, but in this case, the high angle of the sun etched the shadows of trees on to the plaza at the theatre’s entrance. I moved in behind this bronze figure and photographed its arm beckoning towards a shadowy tree. One art form becomes the driving force in another. The statue does more than dance here. My vantage point suggests that its gesture symbolizes mankind paying homage to the glory of the natural world.
Cemetery, Keeler, California, 2006
The graves of a husband and wife rest on a hillside above the distant highway. Someone has taken the time and effort to border both graves with stones. In a way, these borders are more of memorial than the headstones themselves. They show that someone still cares. I made this image with a 28mm wideangle lens, shooting straight into a sun setting beyond the distant hills. A few seconds after I made this photograph, it was dark and we left the occupants of these graves to rest in peace.
War Relocation Center, Manzanar, California, 2006
After Japan attacked the United States in 1941, more than 120,000 men, women and children of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast of the US were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to ten remote desert relocation centers such as the one at Manzanar, just outside Lone Pine, California. Many lost their jobs, their homes, and their property. Two thirds of internees were American citizens. More than 11,000 internees were enclosed by barbed wire in this mile square camp between 1942 and 1945. More than 40 years later, the US government offered an apology and compensation to the former internees, and the camp itself was demolished. One of the few remnants of the camp is a small monument, built in 1943 by the Japanese internees. It stands in a tiny cemetery, and the inscription refers to it as “soul consoling tower.” I abstract the monument down to a fragment of that inscription. A stone rests on its ledge, along with a few pennies, telling us that those who lived and died here are still remembered. Although it is essentially a monochromatic subject, I wanted to photograph it in color so that these memories will seem more real.
Glowing saint, La Posada, Winslow, Arizona, 2006
While walking the perimeter of the gardens that surround that old railroad hotel, I was struck by the play of light on this saintly sculpture set within a niche in the garden wall.
No doubt Mary Colter, the famed architect who designed La Posada in 1928, noticed the play of light here as well. I spent about fifteen minutes photographing the sculpture from various angles, and found this slightly off to one side vantage point worked most expressively for me. The spirit of the saint, in the form of a shadow, leaves the body and fills the illuminated wall of the niche. Colter’s graceful arch encloses both sculpture and shadow. The stones that radiate from the arch echo the rays of the sun itself. I photograph more than a statue here. I photograph its relationship to light, shadow, and architecture, and imply its meaning – spirituality -- in the process.
Standin’ on the corner, Winslow, Arizona, 2006
Winslow is home to nearly 10,000 residents and acquired international recognition in the 1970s because of a brief mention in the Eagle's recording of Jackson Browne's popular song "Take it Easy." To capitalize on its claim to fame, the town erected a statue next to a cleverly executed mural painted on a wall at its Corner Park, allowing visitors to have their photos taken next to it while "standin on a corner in Winslow, Arizona." I wanted my photo of this statue to gain context from the painting on the wall of the building just behind it. The two stanzas of Browne’s song that inspire this image adds additional important context to this photograph. Without knowing the lyrics, the image means much less.
“Well I‘m a-standin on the corner in Winslow, Arizona
With such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl, my lord, in a flatbed truck Ford
Slowin down to take a look at me.
“Come on baby, don’t say maybe
I’ve got to know if our sweet love is going to save me
We may lose and we may win
But we will never be here again
Open up, I’m climbin in, to take it easy”
To express the essence of the song, I focus on the statue of the boy, who seems appropriately moody and wistful. I put the painting of the girl in the flatbed Ford just out of focus, as if seen in a dream. She seems to be driving right through the statue.
Browne does not tell us if the boy’s wishes are to be fulfilled or not. We can only wonder. Interestingly, an actual flatbed Ford truck was parked on the street next to Corner Park, just a few feet from this statue. And another painting, which occupies a faux window on the upper part of the wall, shows an abstracted couple in a passionate embrace. (You can see this part of the wall in another image I made of Winslow’s Corner Park, which appears in my “Time Machine” gallery. To see it, click on the thumbnail below.