We drove to the mountains on the morning of the climate strike: September 20th, 2019. We drove to the mountains and shot the world.
The mountains are Nature’s open-air sanctuaries, high-places, the Hebrew bamot. They are elevated and transcendent, so they are sacred. They give us space to reflect on the world around and below us. This is a place stripped bare of norms, giving us the option to view the self transparently. Mountains provide space to reflect on our place in the world, our values, on what we cannot comprehend, and beg us to reflect: what does it mean to be for this self to be related to this place?
We drove to the mountains to broaden our perspective. The elevation climb is a sign that we’re removed, both physically and emotionally, from where we once were. Each tree is a sign of a larger forest, and then an ecosystem, then a larger world. The thin, crisp air forces us to reflect on this breath we so often take for granted. We become Nature’s subjects: the mountain is sacred, and we are woven into the fabric of its narrative. Nature’s narrative drags us out of ourselves; and we’re thrown into a position where we can just be. This world is real, beyond our interpretive grasp.
We drove to the city to interpret this experience. The city is an interpretive center, filled with competing goals and interests. Here, the real is scrutinized. It is an arena for loud and diverse norms; every idea becomes a means to another's end. The mountains are not sacred; the temple is, the church is, or nothing is. There is no open-air sanctuary, no bamot, only rocks and trees, buildings and roads. There are no buildings and roads, but only matter, energy, substance. Particular meanings ebb and flow--we tighten our grasp on a few and loosen our grip on the world around us. The world becomes fragmented, hosting a multiplicity of ideas, each vying for validity. Life is disoriented. The world becomes an interpretive silo, the real has been discarded.
I record the world to salvage the real. I take pictures of these high-places, of the city, of the ocean, of the mundane and the sacred. I can take a picture of each tree, each rock, each mountain, each building, each person; it is the real world from a particular perspective. Photography captures the perceptive ground from which interpretation is built. It forces me into the Nature’s narrative fabric to remind me of the real, unifying world. Interpretation is postponed, allowing me to tune into the world.
And so, photography gives me space to reflect on the world around me. It is a visual medium stripped bare, giving me the option to view the world transparently. Photography provides space to reflect on my place in the world, my values, on what I cannot comprehend, and begs me to reflect: what does it mean for this place to be related to this self?