Still life photographs:The debutante and the wodewose

October 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

She from the glittering ballroom and he from the edge of the forest, a half-tamed creature of the twilight. Her pearls and his roots and shafts. They intersect in ways that neither understands, but that delights both.

The wodewose is a mythological creature known best from English folklore. A wild, hairy man whose origins go back into the darkness before language and who can be found in many cultures, even right up to our Bigfoot. The key is that he is not completely wild, but that he occupies a space just at the edge of our civil lives . . . half seen, half understood, not fully one of us, but not an animal, either.

I love this mixing together of the wild and the cultivated. I remember someone saying about Deborah Turbeville’s photographs that they were taken during “l’heure entre chien et loup,” the hour between the dog and the wolf. This twilight when the wild and the cultivated mix and overlap seems to be the most evocative time of all. And it doesn’t even need to be a time. It can be any state in which the rough and the elegant mingle . . . it’s in a rusting piece of farm machinery or the stained pages of an aging book.   Above all, it’s the mingling of the rough world with the elegance of the photographer’s mind, the place where he or she steps off the path and allows the precision of the camera to engage the tangle of the blackberry canes.

It’s interesting after all these years of photographing to be able to see this as clearly as I have now in the past couple of days, prompted by photographing these pearls. The wild/civilized  interface is the armature around which I have built my body of work (to the extent that you can call my varied ramblings a body of work) and the photographers who have fascinated me–Irving Penn, Turbeville, Josef Sudek, Sarah Moon, Nancy Rexroth, Sally Mann–all share that impulse to one degree or another.

Ricoh CX4


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