So here we are, back to the start; these iconic falls “where Heaven and Earth meet” were the very first stop on our itinerary, making these some of my very first photographs on the journey.
I’d read about this sacred place and wanted to capture a little bit of how indigenous peoples might perceive these waters, these “mists that roll up to Heaven” and “carry our prayers and our hopes and our dreams to the Creator of us all,” in the words of Ernie Barr, Jr.
My photos weren’t successful in the way I’d imagined them when I looked through the viewfinder on that hot afternoon, sweat dripping down my back from the intense sun and nervousness. And yet, what I got back from the developers evokes something otherworldly; the second slide almost looks like a glimpse into Heaven itself.
I genuinely don’t know what happened to the chemicals on that particular frame of this particular roll, but I love to see it.
This is my favorite photo from the whole trip; I was hanging around while Christine worked on a little project that she’d given herself, trying to work up the courage to approach someone for my very first portrait. I felt embarrassed and invasive as I scanned the dozens of tourists milling about, feeling more and more sorry for myself and my crippling shyness, when I glimpsed this couple from the corner of my eye.
As they made their way up the path to one of the viewing points, I found myself trailing them, my inner critic screaming at me to stop. I felt creepy and weird and literally had no idea what I’d say until I was standing right there behind them.
“Sure,” they said, turning to strike this most effortless pose.
I love everything about this photo; their ease & comfort (no questions asked), their patience as I fumbled with the wind-up wheel (this was the very first frame on this roll), their perfectly emplaced out-of-placeness. . . It was Lynchian, it was easy, it was kind.
If anyone happens to know these beautiful creatures, please tell them that their brief moment of sweet generosity filled me with so much hope for what was to come.
This place was where our journey began, and in its many-layered complexity as sacred space and power plant and tourist spot and television landmark, it is also a synecdoche of everything I wanted to “see” and “do” with this new hobby of mine.
A friend asked me yesterday what I plan to do next with this “work,” and I told her I don’t know if I’m ready to even call this “work.” But maybe it is “work” in precisely the way that these waters and all waters like it in this region have been known: through labor.
On one level, what I’m working on is stepping out of myself (ekstasis); on another, I am letting myself unfold (poesis). It’s scary showing you how I see. It’s scary re-presenting the world. It’s a responsibility that I’ve approached many times, but the hesitation marks of my life attest to my many fears around shouldering that labor for long.
The awesome power of analog photography is in that “decisive moment” when a limited resource meets fleeting moment and snap judgement: should I—may I—will I?
I don’t know if this is going to turn into anything more than an amateurish experiment, but the cups and swords and pentacles keep arranging themselves on the table before me. I just have to decide.