Place & restoration
The concepts "place" and “home” have changed for many as we live through a global pandemic. Ideally, world-wide illness would have given us time to reflect and restore. Unfortunately, due to the structures of our society, some are unable and some are unwilling. My heart goes out to all who had to continue full speed as the virus spread.
Personally, I have finally had an opportunity to restore after getting laid-off two months into the pandemic. Being unemployed (or on Universal Basic Income - UBI - as I prefer to call it), I've created more than I have in decades - drawings, essays, photographs, websites - and, though there are challenges, I feel like I'm slowly returning to the me I really am. And, with a schedule all of my own making, I have had a chance to become intimate with my local community, which has allowed me to observe how place has influenced my life and photo practice. Winter's restoration has offered me an opportunity to feel through my photo style, see subtle beauty, and hear nourishing messages.
Reflections for Spring:
How has the pandemic restored your relationship to the places you inhabit?
How would you express restoration through your photo compositions?
Permission & Reverence
Art and storytelling can offer us an opportunity to relearn history, recenter reality, and reenvision our future. I firmly believe artists and storytellers have a vital role to play in shifting culture toward nurturing restoration and revering nature. The culture of Nature Photography can be reenvisioned by including relationship, reciprocity, restoration, reverence, and ritual.
These concepts are the foundation for my “Relational Nature Photography” article at Slow Photography Movement, a photo movement founded by Jennifer Renwick, Beth Young, and Ernesto Ruiz. In the feedback I’ve gotten since it was published, asking permission and reverence stood out. Here are a few comments I've received about this article, which are published here with permission. Please also enjoy their photography by clicking on the quotes.
You can read about my first experiment in asking a plant's permission in my Slow Photography Movement blog. Here, I'll say that my permission-asking process has evolved a bit since I first experimented with it in July 2020. Curiously, it's become a non-verbal process that mimics how I requested permission from the adult students in my ESL classroom who spoke (many) languages other than English. Since being out of the classroom, the lessons I learned through 10+ years of using very limited, extremely precise spoken language are beginning to seep into my nature photography practice... or more accurately, I'm just now noticing how my career teaching Beginning ESL has shaped my perspective on developing a relationship with nature.
Through further reflection on permission and reverence, I've been thinking more about the way photographers who speak English use language to describe making images. Maybe it's because I'm a language person, maybe it's because I’m extra sensitive after witnessing a gun-related murder on the streets of Minneapolis, but "shoot," "take," "tame," and "capture" in relation to nature photography have been feeling the exact opposite of permissive and reverent.
I’m not interested in correcting nature photographers who use these words and you will likely find them on this site, too, since they are embedded in the culture of photography. However, I am interested in noticing how I use language moving forward and I want to connect with those who are curious about what a shift toward permission and reverence entails.
One reverent thing I'm looking forward to this Spring is "Being with Plants," a free two-day online event that will "explore human/plant connections, including ethics in human treatments of plants, plant sentience and communication, and opportunities for developing more respectful and reciprocal relationships between humans and plants." Not only does the event sound amazing, but my artist friend, Karen Kopacz who tells stories about public and protected lands and waters, will be speaking with her brother David R Kopacz, a psychiatrist, holistic MD, and author of Re-humanizing Medicine, Walking the Medicine Wheel, and Becoming Medicine. Of course I am signed up and I hope you join us on June 17-18, 2021.
Reflections for Spring:
What permissive words would you use to replace these aggressive words?
How would your nature relationship change if your words expressed reverence?
Pausing & Ritual
MEMRES (memories) is a ritual I created for pausing. Read more about the inspiration and intention behind the ritual, which was published in MN Women's Press' "Tapestry: Finding Joy & Inspiration in a Pandemic," a collection of essays focused on practicing self-care.
I had been using MEMRES as a ritual every Monday for a couple of months, right up until we experienced two straight weeks of subzero wind chills here in MN. On Monday, February 22nd, I was finally able to return to my ritual and it was emotional. The absence of this Monday routine made me realize just how much I rely on getting close with nature to maintain my physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
I've shared the inspiration and intention behind MEMRES in multiple places, but I've never shared the meaning behind each image before. Below is a quick summary of what was on my mind as I made each MEMRES image on February 22nd, 2021.
Reflections for Spring:
How will you use the lessons from Winter's pause to nourish your rituals this Spring?
Enjoy the contents of this letter in whichever way best nourishes your life and photo practice and
be on the lookout for your Summer Solstice nature-love letter, which will be delivered to your inbox June 20th, 2021.
Until then, hope you have a beauty-filled Spring!