If you've been reading the blog for a while you know that my photographs of the wheat fields in the area of eastern Washington called the Palouse have been central to my oeuvre for over twenty years. I packed up and was on a plane to Spokane at dawn on Saturday.
After the opening of the American West show in Allston last Thursday I was done. Shows are work and this one was in many ways more work than most. One person shows put it all in one place: you.
As I write this on Tuesday afternoon (7/2), I realize that being here, amid this incredible beauty, clean air, and blue skies, my mood and my disposition were severely affected by the photographs of fire damage at Paradise, CA included in the American West Show.
It is all too easy to see doom and gloom in our world these days. Being here in the Palouse, the extensive agricultural region in the southeast of Washingon, is like stepping off, getting free of the crisis that our daily lives are these days. In all the years I've been coming here little has changed. The land that time forgot.
So, what of the pictures? What am I here to do? Is it more of the same or something different? The answer is a little of both. The last time was in late fall of 2016.They are here. Rougher, coarser, the time of year predisposed the pictures completely. Here in early July they are not far from the first cycle of crops being ready to harvest. It is lush, very green and the wheat is at about mid thigh.
I cannot escape that I am making better files each time I come here. The first ten years or so I was working in 8 x 10, 1993 to 2003, first only in black and white then in color. Now, of course, it is all digital but the evolution of those files is from smaller to larger, to lenses of longer reach and of higher quality. Easy to take for granted but the rendition obtained by pointing my camera at a field and clicking the shutter is now so high as to be comparable to the sheets of 8 x 10 film I used earlier.
Wheat 1997 8 x 10
The precedent for the work I do here is most likely Franco Fontana, working mostly in the 1960's. Let me clear, I care little for the barns, fences, horses, combines harvesting this year's crops. Abstraction and design, light and form are my game, simple enough. Not so much what it is as what it becomes as a photograph.
Later this week I will make aerial photographs, much as I have in other years. The 2016 ones are here.
This is what canola looks like.
Stay tuned. More Wheat coming.