Words as Invitation

desert snag study #1
Desert Snag Study #1, Salton Sea, CA. Photograph © Jane Alynn

This image was made near the Salton Sea in the Colorado Desert of California, almost a year ago today. I have always loved the desert for its stark yet expansive beauty. These days, given climate change and the resulting water shortages, I am drawn to the desert as metaphor for the coming extinction. The words I carry with me are desolation, bareness, isolation, loneliness, mystery….

Words hold great power. Certainly, I experience this in writing poetry. But words can focus our visual work in the same way. Before I go out on an image-making expedition, I make a practice of expressing my “felt-sense“ of the project.

Felt sense is a vehicle of expression. Like intention, it is intangible but drives the creation of something tangible. It gives voice to the feelings I have about a particular subject or idea and focuses my attention.

Felt sense is a starting point. An invitation. It opens the door to seeing.

Scottish-American photographer Albert Watson, I learned recently, also uses words as a starting point. For this discovery I thank photographer-writer friend, Steve Meltzer, who published an article in Shutterbug about Watson.

“With the Isle of Skye project he thought long and hard about the images he wanted and the feeling he was looking to capture. He said that he had words in his mind like desolation, strangeness and romanticism, and he added even, ‘A touch of the The Lord of the Rings.’ ”

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