Monday, September 08, 2008

What I could have said - LensWork Extended #78

I just received my print copy of LensWork Sept-Oct 2008. Quickly thumbing through the magazine to see what Brooks might have written as an intro to my work I was struck by the words "innocent" and "child like".

Well! Here I always viewed myself as a serious "artist". Child-like? That stopped my train of thought. Innocent? Not from a "man of the world", surely.

Yet, the more I thought about it the more I realized that was exactly the "feel" when I'm in the company of heavy railroad equipment. Let me see if I can articulate what this means to me.

Napa - SD9

Back in the day I lived in Southern California. I have no idea what its like now, but when I grew up there the cultural message was strong. The culture demanded "sophistication". Everything from the cars one drove to the house a person lived in to the places one went to eat.

Looking back I'm very much surprised I didn't see it before. There was a distinctly condescending look on anyone who prepared their own meals from scratch. There was the strong judgment of anyone living in slightly beach worn apartments. There were laws in some parts of Southern California that prohibited the hanging of clothing on lines to dry. It was as if the entire Los Angeles and Orange County area was continually "sanitizing" itself for their own protection.

Protection from what? With the distance of time and place I still don't know.

Moving to Portland, Oregon 22 years ago began a sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle transformation. I started by being very aware of my place in culture and society and trying to find a way to "scramble" up the ultra-conservative cultural dung heap of expectation and judgment. I have ended up realizing that who I am will not change, regardless of what the predominant culture "demands" of me.

Brooklyn Roundhouse - SPS700

In hindsight its funny to think of Southern California as being ultra-conservative. Yet, that's exactly what my childhood and young adulthood was; very conservative. Surfers were supposed to be the very cool laid back people one see's in Endless Summer. Restaurants by the beach were supposed to be the height of cuisine production. Rodeo Drive was supposed to be somehow better with fashion than what's found in Paris, France. The media told us time and again just how wonderful it was to live in paradise.

Its nearly impossible to just be when media, cinema, traffic, voices, technology, strip malls, palaces to ultra-conservative churchianity all shout "you're never ever going to be good enough" unless you are stinking filthy rich.

Paradise? Its taken far too long, but paradise to me is living fully within one's means and within one's self. Paradise is the silence that comes with turning off the TV and the stereo. Paradise is parking the car and riding the bike to catch public transportation the rest of the way into work. Paradise is drinking a chilled pint of locally grown and prepared organic brew.

Paradise is stopping the mind from thinking and just being.

In Ram Das' book The Miracle of Love a story is told about the great mystic Neem Karoli Baba. He is said to have had a child like curiosity of the world. When he'd go for a ride in a car he would sit and smile, giggle, and laugh all the while swiveling this way and that to take in all the great sights and scenes as they passed by.

I am no mystic. Trust me on this point. Yet I find the story of Neem Karoli Baba such a beautiful juxtaposition to my earlier experiences on this planet. Its very freeing to know that its OK to be child like.

When I walk into the Brooklyn Roundhouse to tempt fate by trying to make a few fine images I feel very much like a child. My eyes invariably grow wide in their sockets. My stream of thoughts slows down. My breath catches in the throat. My mind and heart open to allow the enormity of the power steam locomotives to sink in and work their magic. This is big! fun!! stuff!!!

It is from this perspective that I am very happy that my joy and happiness come across in print as described by Brooks Jensen in his beautiful LensWork Magazine.

Eureka - GP9 at dusk

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