I’ve been combing through my memories and photographic archives in search of traces of entanglement with rocks. The first photographic engagement that I can find came about as a result of an invitation to accompany a photography student named I think Shulman on an expedition to cliffs at Marblehead in the Spring of 1965. He was doing 8×10 color, as I remember.
I think these are the very rocks:
I can’t remember if I had already encountered Aaron Siskind’s 1944 Gloucester rock photographs, or his 1950 Martha’s Vineyard series, but Len Gittleman might have shown them to us. I was certainly entirely susceptible to Siskind’s mode of seeing by Spring 1965, but I’m not sure if these are unwitting homage to Siskind or directly derivative from work of his that I’d seen. But there I was looking at form in rock, wrestling with light and shadow, putting a 2×3 frame around what seemed to be significant bits of lithoscape:
Fifty years later I scanned those negatives and did some experimental tessellations of two of them:
I love the 3-D illusion that emerges, which suggests some lesson in figure-and-ground perception, and I love the notion that there are always more possibilities in an image than one first realizes.
I went still further with the second image, tessellating and then split-toning to create an image that seems not to be rock at all:
In the same cache of negatives I found these two: Shulman himself, and Shulman’s spouse dealing productively with the boredom of waiting for him to finish playing with the huge camera.