When I am surrounded by trees, I see peace everywhere I look. I see peace in the detritus of the trail; the trees of years gone by. I see peace in the steadfast trunks supporting the dark matrix of branches that shield me from the blue sky above. Perhaps that’s why forests are so difficult for me to photograph, I have a tendency to photograph peace*. And when peace is everywhere to be seen, it can be… overwhelming. It’s like trying to take a portrait of the earth, from the earth’s surface, and fitting it all in a single frame. That’s kind of what it feels like when I transition from city to forest, I just can’t seem to see the space between things.
But when I head into the city, the word I’ll use for any setting with more people than trees, the the whispers of stillness echo from all angles. The gentle shadow cast on a light blue wall. The vibrant shadow of signs long gone.
Admittedly, when I’m in the city my mind is stimulated and agitated by default. I suppose that is why I am drawn to peace in the city, it offers such stark contrast to the usual busy workings associated with urban areas.
I search for the points of stillness the active world weaves between. They can be found in the depth of long narrow alleys or the brief moment when all lights go red.
But teleport me to the forest and…
Ahhhhhh! Feels like a new pair of socks! I feel like I’m home. But when I put camera to eye, things start to get a bit squirrelly, local news station pun fully intended. All I see are blurry squiggly lines, a green and brown palette, and too many shadows to count. There just doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the patterning of it all. Just one big peaceful, beautiful blob.
So I shut my eyes, slightly raise my chin, and allow each breath to become deeper and fuller than the one before. With patience, this patten softens the city-worn callus that dulls my perspective until it is no more. Slowly, with each breath, blink, and step, the blurred edges of the forest begin to come into focus. The space widens just enough for me to fit the four edges of a frame. If you’ve never been to Pennsylvania, our forests grow with a quiet diligence and leave little tenantless space, especially in the warmer seasons. Here, among the ents, sensitivity isn’t something to be guarded, but something to be embraced and explored.
*Special thanks to Anja Shütz for making me aware of my inclination to photograph peace. Since you’ve pointed it out, things have become clearer. I am forever grateful. Thank you.