Iceland: Simple

It's simple really. It isn't really complicated, intricate or difficult. It all gets noisy and over wrought, of course. We make for many of our own problems, in the visual creativity game. I know I do. But it isn't hard. We just have to look and see.

Photography comes all preloaded with all kinds of problems. Think about it: in a fraction of a second we go from, what is now a sensor, but it used to be a piece of  film, a blank slate to one that is jammed packed full of information. Compare that to a bare canvas when the first brush stroke is applied. Thinking this way you can see how hard it is. We can't back up after the shutter's fired at 1/250 of a second, or rub something out with an eraser to start over. We can shoot another frame and another and God knows we do but once the light's been gathered by the lens and focused down onto a light sensitive something that these days is most often very small then there it is, we've got it, come hell or high water. It's an odd way to work when you take that device out into the world and use it to capture it. 

These are the kinds of thoughts rambling around in my brain as I sit up here at what feels like the top of the world in Hofsos Iceland at 5 am on a morning where it never really got dark last night and won't again tonight.

Here's another in a group where I've set up the camera in the same place every few hours and shot one off:

Why? OMG, why wouldn't you? Because you can, because you should. The last time I had a chance to photograph this way, with this kind of simple and elegant beauty right outside my door, this reductive landscape of magnificent proportions and scale? Never, that's when.

Here, as I am learning, all you really have to do is amp up your sensitivity to what is here, be here, really fully be here, and watch it change right in front of you in a kind of observationally acute awareness to simply what is there. Simple, really.

Aaron Siskind, one of my teachers in graduate school and a man I grew to love very much said to me once, early in my time there, "Neal, do it simple". He didn't mean I was simple (or he might have as at the time I would characterize myself as being pretty clueless), he meant that when you start out and you don't know too much you probably will do better trying to make simple and clear statements rather that intricate, involved, complicated or ornate ones. It took me a while to get to that, to understand what he was saying and the wisdom of his words. Of course, the best teaching applies across disciplines, has relevance in almost any field and his certainly did. Isn't eloquence in its purest of forms most always very simple? Brilliance a kind of minimal peeling away of noise pared down to an essential? I like to think so.

OK. Neal getting all kinds of deep here. But again how could you not when you have countless hours and days to contemplate? This residency is that more than any other I've been on, a real getting off whatever ride you've been on, a chance to look back at your life in all its complexity and its routines and examine what is important and what is not. Transformative? I can't say for sure but amongst our group of residents here we are talking this way, confirming each other's belief that we are experiencing something more profound than just a month away on a pretty island.

I will break my rule here and throw one in one made about 20 minutes ago at about 90 degrees from the above ones, turning the camera to the left:

Enough said?

Topics: Iceland

Permalink | Posted July 16, 2013