What would happen if we simply refused to accept the world as we’ve been taught to see it? What would happen if we refused to accept ourselves in that way? If we did that, we’d step out the the “cause and effect”mindset that we’ve inherited and into mythic time and mythic space. We’d find ourselves in mythic reality, a place where our concepts of time and perception are reversed and turned inside out. And we’d come face to face with Modes of Presence that have become lost to the modern mind, which hurtles down the track at breakneck speed and never stops for a moment to consider that there might be another way.
Standing in a spectacular landscape with camera in hand requires me to do just that. We forget that the “things” we photograph are alive and that the scale of time in which they exist is far from us. But still, I can make an attempt to move into that space. Feeling a landscape requires me to leave behind everything I think I know in favor of a mystery I can never understand. Mountains, sea stacks, and rivers could care less what day or year it is, what time it is. Their Mode of Being is much different than mine. But they are alive nonetheless.  For me, it is in this state of mind that the making of a photograph begins.

Making a Photograph

This is what I mean when I say that the creative process begins in Imagination. It’s also why I capitalize that word. It’s where inner doors open, where veils are parted, where we get a peek behind the curtain at another mode of being; one that, to say it again, has been lost to the modern mind. Putting yourself in this place can transform your photographs into something magical that comes from inside. In a way, it’s a bit like journalistic or documentary photography. It’s just that what those photographs record is an inner landscape, not simply an outer one. In truth, they record the relationship and interaction of those two landscapes.
My friend, Blake Rudis and I have talked for quite awhile now about doing some location workshops. I’ve had similar conversations with my dear friend and sometime assistant, the very talented Dominica Wasilewska Fisher. I’ve been frustrated by the common workshop practice of getting people in front of a location and letting them just click away without ever talking, just for a few moments, about what they see, what they feel, and what they sense in that place. That’s an unbelievably deep resource for making great and unique photographs.

Editing a Strange Photograph

The video below presented a unique problem to me. Blake handed this photo off to me and asked me to see what I could do with it. I’ve never actually been to this place so I had to really reach into that Imaginal place and get a feel for what it would be like to be standing there. It turns out that I saw things quite differently that’s they actually were. What I thought was ice turned out to be water patterns formed by the wind and captured in a long exposure. And that was just the beginning. Watch the video and you’ll see.
If you’re interested in attending a workshop like this, then check out the link below. You’ll get not just one, but two world-class instructors who will show you how to approach your work in a different way. And that, my friend, is how you begin to make work that is truly yours.

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10 Responses

  1. Fabulous job Jim. Only one thing bugged me. There is a nondescript blob of water centre bottom, just below the rock that could have done with a bit of dodge and burn to break it up a bit and balance the bottom of the picture. Its almost like a bit of tonal compression and caught my eye on a number of occasions during the edit. I don’t want to sound fussy and condescending as I am usually hauled back myself for similar oversights and for good reason. I am learning so much from both you and Rudis it feels like I am starting out again in my photography career.

    1. Hi Declan,
      Fussy is what make great photographs! Your critique is a fair one. I left that area unworked on purpose as I knew it would draw attention. I want you to see it and plant yourself at the bottom. And so begins the march through the image from bottom to top. Sometimes an unworked area like that can be useful. You may disagree and that’s ok.

      As for you feeling like you’re starting over again, you’re not alone. I feel like that all the time!

  2. Thanks Jim. My partner lived for a number of years in Chicago and her kids have settled down and married there. I will probably be over next Thanksgiving and hope to catch up with you. I live in Donegal, on the wild Atlantic way, which has some of the most magical scenery on the planet. If you are ever over, give us a shout.

  3. Thanks Jim, But I think you do not understand where the images comes from. The Olympic Peninsula is affected by the ocean tides. It is not a lake and there is no ice but algae growth on the rock in the foreground. That all said, I love you tutorials.

    1. Thanks Terry. As I said in the attached article, I had never been to that place. My point is that, if you allow it, the actual subject matter in front of you is of little consequence and is merely raw material for something much bigger. It’s food for Imagination. Making photographs from Imagination opens all kinds of doors that are closed to us when we operate in the literal.
      Check out this post: http://alter.tier1building.com/2017/10/12/imagination-classic-rock-raisins/

      Because I had never been to that place, Imagintion was all I could rely on in editing the final piece. The fact that I had never been there did not cripple my process at all. In fact, it liberated me because I was not tied to a literal experience. I imagined the details incorrectly, but it mattered little as far as the result. In my view, Imagination is used too little in making photographic art. Photography, as a medium, is unfortunately tied to the literal. This is useful for journalists and those making documentary photographs. But for art-making, it is crippling. Just my opinion.

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