As a recent transplant from the Pacific and Rocky Mountain West, photography has lately been a means for me to gain a foothold in my new home of New Haven, Connecticut. When I found myself missing the expansive vistas accessible even from my casual daily driving routines in California’s Sonoma County and Colorado’s Front Range, I decided to turn toward that which was seemingly obstructing my view here in New England: the trees. I learned that I didn’t have to drive to the White Mountains of New Hampshire or Acadia National Park in Maine to get a taste of nature’s openness and fullness. Despite what feels to me like the very private nature of the land in Connecticut, I discovered a landscape that tends toward sensory abundance. The seasonal shifts in a small stretch of riverside woods in New Haven can rival the glory of Western vistas, when one takes the time to watch them unfold. The natural landscapes of Connecticut pay interest on a long-invested engagement.
Photography has become my means of taking up residency in this landscape, of finding myself aesthetically at home here. This experience of a new type of landscape has in turn affected my photographic process and intentions. These days, I aspire to create photographs whose drama emerges in details and relationships that a less patient observer would miss. I am looking for sensations that reveal themselves more to the inhabitant than to the tourist: a captivation that unfolds over time and across seasons. I am inspired in this by the great American naturalist tradition of deep observational engagement with a landscape over time – a tradition that extends from Thoreau’s Walden through Annie Dillard’s Tinker Creek and is exemplified by the subtle, cumulative enchantment of the landscape photography of Elliot Porter.
Careful observation is not everything. Like the “dynamic landscapes” and “participatory photography” of the late national geographic photographer Galen Rowell, my photography aims to be more than just a means of recording the “facts” of my landscape. When I find myself pulled back to look and look again deeper at a place like East Rock Park, I find that I am not recording the park or even the seasons so much as I am trying to capture the effervescent experience of unexpectedly transcendent convergences of light, color, pattern, texture, and form. Photography becomes a spiritual practice of paying attention to the alchemy of the particular and the contingent: how a certain kind of light turns a seemingly ordinary tree trunk and some vines into a revelation of wholeness. This is a state in which observation heightens being. And it is how I fall in love with a place and make it my home.