The life that you live in order to photograph it is already, at the outset, a commemoration of itself. ~Italo Calvino
I made relatively few images this past year. For several months I was sick with an illness for which I had no name, and mired in anhedonic haze for weeks at a stretch. In my lowest times I could not even recall what it was like to not be sick. I am better now.
There is a loneliness in being sick for prolonged periods of time. People try to avoid the subject of your illness, those close to you may withhold their own problems out of a misplaced desire to ease your burden, and some may even grow upset with you as you become absorbed in your own thoughts and misery. In those times when I could not find solace among people, I went to my desert. I went to visit with familiar places—friends incarnated in rocks and trees and waters—places of refuge and shelter and solace; places that always accept me as I am; places that calm me down and where my mind feels at ease and finds rest; places where memories and sensations converge to a version of me that is independent of age or health or circumstances; places where the mundane does not intrude. On most of these outings I made no images. The camera would have been a rude and unwelcome distraction—a mechanical eye observing a decidedly private ritual.
A place is not a place is not a place. Places assume meanings as we interact with them; as we accumulate experiences and memories in them; as we gain knowledge about them; as we evolve relationships with them; as we become familiar with them and comfortable in them. There is a world of difference between a place as partner in a lasting relationship, and a place considered as just a photographic subject. The latter does not interest me much. I have long found that my work is most meaningful to me as an expression of my life and my relationships with the world. Without such relationships, aesthetics alone, while enjoyable to view at times, do not move me to create. In creating I need more than just beauty; I need a story—a good one—and I need to be a character in that story. And my story unfolds here.
I was never content to stand apart form the landscape, looking in, being a transient visitor—a tourist, an outsider—showing up to harvest an image or practice some form of recreation before moving on. When in a place that interests me I am not content just seeing it; I want to be a part of it, to immerse myself in it, to know it, to become comfortable in it. Certainly I might accomplish these things in a great variety of places, but they take time to evolve. And my time, alas, is limited. I have made my choice, and there is no doubt in my mind that I chose well.
It’s not about the landscape; it’s about this landscape.
The Glowing Season
About the Author (Author Profile)Guy Tal is a published author and photographic artist. He resides in a remote part of Utah, in a high desert region known as the Colorado Plateau – a place that inspired him deeply for much of his life and that continues to feature in his images and writing. In his photographic work, Guy seeks to articulate a reverence for the wild. He writes about, and teaches, the values of living a creative life and finding fulfillment through one’s art.
Sites That Link to this Post
- The Meaning of Places – Guy Tal | Ed Lehming Photography | October 6, 2016