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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

AfterImage Series

Post 9

I left the Grand Canyon on 15 February 2011. I was sad to leave, but it was time to go home to Massachusetts and shovel snow.

Visually and metaphorically, the Canyon's shadows came with me, in my mind and my mind's eye. I loved the way they slashed through the rock and made it disappear, except at noon, when they vanished themselves. They seemed to have powers of instant erosion, replacing what was hard and solid and sure with what was suggested and mysterious and unknown. The shadows became emblems to me of the imagination, and the creative process itself.

Gail, a friend I met on a hike in Wales, told me about Carl Jung's thoughts on shadows. Jung, she said (while hiking through an abandoned slate mine) believed that everyone carries a shadow, a part of the self that is rarely expressed; the more the shadow edges into a person's conscious life, the better. The darker the shadow, the deeper the repression. And that, as we've learned, is the stuff of all kinds of problems...

I've been thinking about this. What would be hidden in the Canyon's shadow? What does the earth have pressed into its subconscious? I could do worse with my time than keep thinking about this.

But these are more recent thoughts.  When I returned home from the Canyon in February what hit me was the scale of my everyday, East Coast life. Shadows here are attached to trees and people; they're not repositories of wonder. The horizon is near, and I'm within an hour of three state lines. We live not on, but in, a small scale, not a large one.

This reminded me of the idea I'd had of using beach pebbles as the surface on which to print my shadow photos. Transmute the great to small. Bring the Canyon and its immensities into the zone of my own tiny life. And bring it back to its roots in the sea; because without primeval seas, there would be no Canyon rock.

And when you think about it, coming back to the shadows themselves, we tend to think of shadows as being linked to the past--the days and memories and ghosts that stretch behind us in darkness. And yet, it occurred to me, shadows are actually projections of the self into the future. Light first strikes whatever object casts a shadow, before it strikes what the shadow is cast upon, below or next to it. 

So our minds place shadows in the past, but our bodies cast them into the future. Once and future touchstones of what was, is, and can be. I can't imagine a better emblem for the erosive magnificence of the Grand Canyon.

So in March I gathered up a host of beach pebbles that Marguerite and I had collected along the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada, in 2008. Here are some of them before they were printed:

And here's where they come from:

I printed them throughout the spring.

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