Monday, January 14, 2013

Inspired by Winslow Homer...

Weather Beaten - 1894
   I visited the Portland Museum recently to see their exhibition, "Weather Beaten" which highlights the late work of Winslow Homer who had made his home on Prout's Neck outside of Portland in his final years.  The restoration of his studio was completed this year and one can tour it from April - October.  That is certainly on my list of things to do this Spring.  I went to the exhibit, however, to gather inspiration for my own photographic work and I wasn't disappointed.

   Of course, after 35 years of teaching art I was well aware of Homers work but it was gratifying to see his Maine canvases together in one exhibit.  I sat in the galleries and made sketches of compositions...I especially liked his use of strong diagonals.  I also liked his use of long horizontal formats; this is something I've experimented with in my camera work before and I think I will continue with this idea.  But the most interesting part of the exhibit for me was his last canvases.  Many of them explored the idea of mortality.  He was nearing the end of his life and it is not surprising his thoughts turned toward the subject of death.

The Seagulls Message - 2005
    Now, death has never been a subject I've dwelt on in my photography but it certainly is one that is ripe for contemplation of any sort.  I searched back through my image inventory and found the only image I have in this theme, one I took of a dead gull in the Western Isles back in 2005.  I remembered that there was something evocative about this image to me at the time I made it.  I later saw a human face nestled under the wing and I spent may hours reflecting on the metaphor.

   I think there are many ways to approach the idea of mortality in your image making and it is a theme that some of you may wish to pursue.  I know that after seeing the exhibition I will keep my eyes open for juxtapositions that would lend themselves to some meaningful reflections.  I don't think it is a morbid subject at we all know, life is a fleeting thing and we never know, as John O'Donouhue said, how close our feet are to the edge.  Why shouldn't we, as contemplative photographers, delve into this sensitive subject?  What is this seagulls message do you think?

No comments: