Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Inspired by the Staircase at Pleasant Hill...

   I had come a long way just to see a staircase! This is one of two three story spiral staircases in the center family dwelling. When I was able to begin making photographs of it, I was overcome with the sheer beauty of its design.  A greater perfection of architectural form is hard to imagine.  The luminous light made it all the more incredible but then the Shakers were known to work diligently to bring light and a sense of space into their buildings.

   I had learned about this staircase many years ago.  With my immersion in all things Thomas Merton this last week it was only natural that I had to visit this site.  Merton's Abbey of Gethsemani is only about an hour away and he visited here at least nine times. Of course, during his days the village was just beginning its resurrection and the images Merton made in the village showed a much different reality.  I've never seen a photograph made by Merton of this staircase but he said of it:

...marvelous double winding stair
going up to the mysterious clarity 
of a dome on the roof...quiet sunlight
filtering in...

   I think you could photograph this staircase dozens of time and never repeat yourself.  The staircase inspired me to focus on the interplay of light and shadow in the village and my weekend contemplative photography retreat got me dwelling on the simplicity one can achieve with one's images.  The two thoughts - simplicity and light - will define the folio of images I make here.

   I was thrilled to see a new book on Merton's writings and photographs here at Pleasant Hill. Naturally I've added it to my collection of books from this trip!

   When I finally return home to Maine next week I will have days of work ahead of me putting this folio together.  I will share it with you when it is done.  This may inspire you to go in search of a place of profound beauty to photograph.  Architectural studies are always a fascinating way to contemplate Man's striving for perfection.


1 comment:

Andy Ilachinski said...

Magnificent luminescence!