Before I lived on Block Island, I visited for a week or two every year. I remember the feeling of release from my home obligations and the beauty that astonished me at every turn. But when I moved to the island, I took those obligations with me. I found it was possible for the beauty of the island to recede into the background. When that happened, I lost the point of being here… without the beauty, Block Island is just a place where you can’t buy gasoline after 2 in the afternoon.
The same thing happened with photography… what was utterly beautiful, surprising and new to me the first year became “same old same old” five years later. So I began to see the different ways I could go out to take my pictures. I could go out as a hunter, as the language used in photography suggests. I could "shoot" or "capture" or "take" my pictures. I could go out as a shopper, with my recipes and my list, and gather them for a specific purpose. I could go out open, ready to discover, ready to be surprised by something new. All these ways were available to me and all created a different experience, a different way of seeing, a different focus, and even with the same subject matter, a different picture.
There is a saying, "Keep your mind where your body is." And taking pictures from a place of being in a relationship with the landscape helps me do that. It helps me to come out of my head and out of my agenda and into my heart. And then, to use the old language from the poem, "The Love of Tristan and Isolde", instead of using my eyes to capture or shoot a picture, my eyes can "go reconnoitering" for my heart. When I see in this way, I can see the same things again and again, and they're always new and I am always part of it. The island has become more beautiful to me, more intimate, and more nourishing. I can find my place in the landscape, not as its owner or master, but perhaps as its guest, or in a certain way, as its child. Then I feel that I belong on the earth.
The Love of Tristan and Isolde
"So through the eyes love attains the heart:
For the eyes are scouts of the heart,
And the eyes go reconnoitering
For what it would please the heart to possess.
And when they are in full accord
And firm, all three, in the one resolve,
At that time, perfect love is born
From what the eyes have made welcome to the heart.
For as all true lovers
Know, love is perfect kindness,
Which is born – there is no doubt – from the heart and the eyes."
Guiraut de Bornelh (ca. 1138 – 1215); (From Joseph Campbell, “The Power of Myth”)