We live in a world of instantaneous sharing, a constant present where photos go up on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram the minute they’re taken, where events are live streamed and live tweeted, where instant pundits make comments on what’s happening right now, with tongue in cheek, or, all too often, foot in mouth. In the analog era, photographs and commentary were never about the right now. There was always enough delay built into the process that at best they were about the freshly recalled past.
I really like having a delay. Art needs time to ripen inside the artist before it is shared. I am always drawing upon my archive, finishing work years after it was begun, finding fresh gems that have lain buried for a while.
For those of us in the Northeastern U. S., the winter of 2013-14 was more than usually harsh. Heavy snowfall was followed by frigid temperatures that turned the accumulation into rock-hard ice, which was layered over by more snow, and so on, for three solid months. Heavy weather conditions often inspire me photographically, and this past winter was no different. But had I shared these shots of my arctic muse at the time, they would simply have reinforced the viewers’ ongoing misery. Now that we are safely into the season of sunshine and green growth we can look back at images of winter with an appreciation born of detachment.
This kind of detachment, this waiting to ripen, this separation between impulse and response, is vital to art. Let us not lose it in the roaring noise of the current.
Throughout the months of January and February, the crosswalk near my home was blocked by a huge pile of plowed-up snow, melted a bit, refrozen and enlarged by cumulative precipitation. I passed it every day. Like Monet’s haystacks, it was a shapeless pile of matter that revealed the mercurial qualities of light.
Snow is a great special effect for nocturnal photography, as it reflects and magnifies every kind of light. Dark pavement swallows a lot of the color, but white snow makes all the varied hues of night sing harmony.
Being covered or partially buried makes sculptural abstractions of everyday objects.
Snow adds nature’s chaos to the designed and built environment, mountain ranges among the towers and boxes of glass.
White snow makes an ideal screen for dramatic shadows to be projected.
At night and twilight, the colors can be downright psychedelic. These are straight photos – no color manipulation or hypersaturation, very close to the effects I saw with my own eyes.
By the beginning of March, nothing was left but filthy remnants, tattered scraps, the diminishing cores of what had recently seemed mighty glaciers.
Spring arrived as crisp clear sunlight, last year’s foliage stripped and bleached, the ground saturated by snowmelt, ready for new life to burst forth.