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Saturday, December 3, 2011




GRAND CANYON
AfterImage Series

Post 12

After the milkweed episode (see Post 11), I realized I needed to consider a couple of things. I liked the look of the milkweed images, but they were random and rushed (I worked so fast I knocked myself in the teeth with my camera; I can't even begin to reconstruct how I did that). So...

1. I needed to think out how and where I'd shoot the pebbles--against what kinds of backgrounds? How would they look in terms of texture and color, and what meaning would they bring to the series? 

2. I needed to decide how to arrange the pebbles. I'd come up with the World and Canyon Clock formats, and the AfterImage shape, but what else? Decorative patterns based on Native American geometries? I had to think about that...

3. I definitely needed to number the pebbles on the back and sketch out templates for each design. The clock patterns required particular pebbles, shot at specific times of day, but I had a box of 27 pebble petrographs that all looked pretty similar; I needed to make a shadow time chart, assign each shadow photo a number, and then mark the printed pebbles with corresponding numbers. Below are some of my notebook pages about the numbering system. The wrinkles and dirt on the second two page images come from them having been stuffed in every pocket I own, dropped in the sea, stepped on, you name it.





I also needed to create a system so I could arrange the stones quickly when I was on location with them, shifting from one pattern to another. After a few tries WITHOUT working from charts and numbers, I could see I was in real danger of losing my mind, squatting in dirt, bending over a line of pebbles with a crick in my back and two cameras swinging around my neck, trying to figure out which shadow pebble went where, while simultaneously attempting to switch between my new DSLR and old film camera (for the black and white images), without strangling myself. Not to mention fighting off both mosquitos and curious onlookers....

I thought it would be interesting, both visually and metaphorically, to work with background elements that represented different phases of the Grand Canyon's development: ash, for the volcanic rock; water, for ancient seas and the Colorado River, both of which have mightily shaped the Canyon; and both sand and mud, for the layers of sedimentary rock that make up the Canyon's walls. Later I decided to add colored beach pebbles themselves as a backdrop, as precursors to sand (mainly for visual interest) and also sea grass, representing the metamorphosed vegetable matter in Canyon rock.

Here's an early sketch I made of what I thought the World Clock series might look like, shot against different backgrounds: ashes, sand, marsh grass, and sea water.


A little crude, but you get the point.

There were also ideas that I discarded--or let's say shelved. I thought for awhile about placing the shadow pebbles on a musical scale as if they were notes--maybe a scale I'd drawn in the sand. And then let the tide come in and rearrange them...(I dreamt about copying the sheet music from "Thunder Road" in sand on the beach, with the pebbles as notes, and then photographing what happened to the music after waves moved the pebbles. How would the sea rewrite Bruce Springsteen, and how would that sound? I was first excited about this, then thought it was just plain nuts, then thought it really wasn't such a bad idea, and finally realized it was too hard for now...) Here's a sketch from my notebook depicting the shadow music...

 Here's how the World Clock sketch turned out, photographed. The image on the left shows the pebbles in water; on the right, in twilight on seagrass, which actually looks more like the sketch...



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