The camera used to be my primary tool to build connections and relationships. More and more, I’m finding that the camera is either unnecessary, or it shows up much later in the process, documenting the connection rather than prompting it. My passion for plants started in childhood, lay dormant during my teens and early twenties, and has blossomed into the closest thing to spirituality in my adult life.
The process of making this work starts with a slow walk in the woods looking for moments of sunlight piercing through the thick Appalachian canopy and highlighting a plant. The sun chooses the subjects; therefore many of the plants that I photograph are quite common, many are even considered invasive. These are mostly plants that I would tend to ignore in most contexts or even rip from the ground. Instead I look, I feel, and I sit with the plant appreciating it for what it is. Introducing the camera to the equation allows for the documentation of a circle of relationships, starting with the sacred relationship between the sun and the plants. Through the camera’s relationship with the sun, and my relationship with my camera, I’m given a tool to speak to my relationship with the plant. How do I feel about the plant, what are my associations, and how does that factor into how I tell the camera to capture the plant?
In this circle of relationships, each element has much to give. The sun gives the greatest gift of all, life itself. The plants offer endless gifts, each with a role in a complex ecological web, offering us food, medicine and countless other gifts both tangible and intangible. The unfathomable engineering of glass and circuitry that make up my camera offer me an incredible tool for interpreting the world around me. But how do I reciprocate? Robin Wall Kimmerer speaks to how giving thanks is a simple but powerful gift of acknowledgement to our neighbors in nature. I show my gratitude by being intentionally present with the plants, giving them my whole awareness.
Through the cultivation of these relationships, I find myself on the slow path to remembering. I begin to unlearn the great human lie, the false dichotomy of humanity as a separate entity from everything else that we call nature. The veil of lies is pierced by the simple truth of life-giving light passing through a leaf. I un-numb myself, defrost my heart, so that a seed might grow.