Eliot Porter and Me, Part 3
This is from the University of Washington’s Union Bay Natural Area, also know as the Montlake Fill, a decommissioned landfill on the shore of Lake Washington. For a long time it was left to the invasives, especially Himalayan Blackberry (in the drier parts) and Purple Loosestrife (around the small ponds that formed on the clay cap). In recent years the university has been removing the weeds and planting natives. These bushes and trees are by a pond and look to have been chosen partly for their wildlife-friendly berries.
A lot of my photos have screens of bare branches, and I can trace it back to this photo by Porter.
It is perhaps my favorite of his, from In Wildness…, and I first saw it when I was in High School. It really took me aback. It was nothing like the grand scenics I was used to in nature photography. At first I didn’t like it, but it perturbed me enough that I kept looking at it, and it grew on me. It is both terribly dense and complex, and also very simple: just the red screen in front and the white tree behind. It reminds me of what I understand to be a central preoccupation of modern art: the tension between the illusion of depth created by the representation of the subject and the reality that the picture itself is flat.
Here is another Porter-inspired photo of mine, from Deception Pass State Park, though I’d say it also owes a debt to Jackson Pollock.