There's a scene in the movie Jarhead, towards the end where the marines are walking through the desert. You can see the waves of heat simmering up from the sand. Swofford is narrating, "A story. A man fires a rifle for many years. and he goes to war. And afterwards he comes home, and he sees that whatever else he may do with his life - build a house, love a woman, change his son's diaper - he will always remain a jarhead. And all the jarheads killing and dying, they will always be me. We are still in the desert. "
That last line always gets me.
Somewhere, someone is doing the only thing they know and they're ... lost. One of the hardest things we, as artists, have to do is recognize when we're in a rut. It's difficult. Damned difficult. Sometimes you have to force yourself to do something different.
Last weekend I decided it was time to find myself lost in a forest with a camera. It has been wet and cool. We trekked out on a grey and somber day, happy to not be walking in the rain.
There's a distinct crunch to dirt when it's wet. It's not so much that it crushes, but that it grinds and slips beneath your feet molding into the crevasses of your shoes. Then there's the slow sucking lurch as your foot melds in with the red clay mud. It was a hard pudding and we were sloshing through it with wild abandon.
I like walking in the forest. It's quiet. Not like the city where you can't get away from the buzzing sound of engines, squealing tires, yelling, rumbling chopper blades, and the sounds of activity. The forest, it is a death knell, quiet and eerie.
And this lets you relax and unfocus. There's an old saying about being unable to see the forest from the trees. It's right. As an artist, I tend to focus deeply on getting right the very thing that's in front of me. So focused that I completely pass over the detail that comes with everything surrounding.
“A woodland in full color is awesome as a forest fire, in magnitude at least, but a single tree is like a dancing tongue of flame to warm the heart.”
The combination of the grey, overcast day with the break in rain left the flora and fauna in quite a brilliant light. Everywhere we looked the greens were rich and lifelike, the browns were warm and inviting, the sheen left upon the world invited you to stop, crouch down, and navel gaze upon the mushrooms (and boy, were there LOTS of mushrooms). The decay out there was amazing.
And here I sit, one week later, staring at these photographs wondering why I'm still in this rut photographically. And all I can think is ...
I'm a photographer and I am still in the forest. Lost.