Sunday, February 17, 2008

Is it Possible to Make a Photograph of New Jersey Regardless of Where You Are in the World

(Trenton , New Jersey - Virginia Beahan and Laura McPhee)

I noticed this competition a while back -
Is it Possible to Make a Photograph of New Jersey Regardless of Where You Are in the World - and it intrigued me somewhat. Unfortunately not enough to actually get me off my backside and enter... (mind you, entries must be in by Feb 22nd, so if you are seriously interested you still have time - I'll even give you a free concept in a few line :-) ).

I've never been to New Jersey - I've seen it on films, I've read about the place - but never been there. The whole idea of photographing somewhere you have never been has certainly got me thinking - the cogs are grinding away in there anyway. And after all, writers and composers do it all the time. A few photographers have tried it in different ways, but not many (I particularly like Joan Fontcuberta, "Sputnik: The Odyssey of the Soyuz II" for example - I'm pretty sure he never made it into orbit).

Anyway, I did have an idea of how to photograph New Jersey, but as it's been too damn cold here for the last three weeks or so, feel free to use it if you are looking for inspiration... (and I'm sure I'm not the only one to come up with it).
"Rigor of beauty is the quest. But how will you find beauty when it is locked in the mind past all remonstrance?"

To make a start,
out of particulars
and make them general,
up the sum, by defective means--
Sniffing the trees
just another dog,
amongst a lot of dogs. What

else is there? And to do?"

The rest have run out--

after the rabbits. Only the lame stand - on
three legs. Scratch front and back.

Decieve and eat. Dig

a musty bone.
Paterson by William Carlos Williams is one of my favourite "epic" (if you can use that of a Modernist work?) poems. Focusing on both the man and the place Paterson, it seems to me that the work is so full of images, echoes and resonances, making photographs that in some way reflect and respond to that wouldn't be impossible.

Paterson lies in the valley under the Passaic Falls
its spent waters forming the outline of his back. He

lies on his right side, head near the thunder

of the waters filling his dreams! Eternally asleep,
his dreams walk about the city where he persists
incognito. Butterflies settle on his stone ear.

Immortal he neither moves nor rouses and is seldom

seen, though he breathes and the subtleties of his


drawing their substance from the noise of the pouring
animate a thousand automatons. Who because they

neither know their sources nor the sills of their

disappointments walk outside their bodies aimlessly
for the most part,
locked and forgot in their desires -- unroused.

-- Say it, no ideas but in things --

nothing but the blank faces of the houses

and cylindrical trees

bent, forked by preconception and accident --

split, furrowed, creased, mottled, stained --

secret -- into the body of the light!

From above, higher than the spies, higher

even than the office towers, from oozy fields

abandoned to grey his spelling beds of dead grass,

black sumac, withered weed-stalks,

mud and thickets cluttered with dead leaves --

the river comes pouring in above the city

and crashes from the edge of the gorge

in a recoil of spray and rainbow mists--

(What common language to unravel?
. . . combed into straight lines
from that rafter of a rock's


A man like a city and a woman like a flower

-- who are in love. Two women. Three women.
Innumerable women, each like a flower.


only one man -- like a city.

William Carlos Williams, from "Paterson" (1946)

No comments: