Monday, November 17, 2014

Be Our Guest - Patricia Turner

In this our month of gratitude here at Focusing on Life, I'm pleased to introduce our guest for this month, Patricia Turner. Carol Albers recently met Patricia at a photography workshop and suggested her for a guest blogger. I think you'll be glad she did when you've read Patricia's lovely post and viewed her wonderful photography. Since Patricia is new to our pages, I think a short introduction would be helpful.

Patricia majored in photography and filmmaking in the mid-1970’s.  After receiving her master’s in Fine Arts Education from Harvard University in 1979, she spent the next 30 years teaching in a suburban Boston school system.  In 2005, she received a grant from The Philanthropic Initiative to return to her photographic work with a trip to the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.  This has led to 9 years of world travel.   Since her retirement in 2010, Turner has devoted her time to contemplative photography and travel with her home-base in Porter, Maine.  Her latest project, The Poetry of Place, Reflections from the Edge of the Pond, finds her much nearer to home, at Little Clemons Pond in Hiram, Maine.  Her passion for the writings of Henry David Thoreau has led her to make the pond her personal Walden.   This photograph represents the inaugural print of the series she hopes to create over the next year at the pond.  Turner writes a blog, A Photographic Sage, that approaches contemplative photography from a Taoist perspective.  You can see folios of her work on the site.

Finding Walden

I am grateful for so many things. Retirement has offered me the gift of time to pursue my passion for contemplative photography. My love of the writings of Concord contemplative and transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau has given me the desire to find and photograph my own Walden close to home. I'm thankful that I found it within a mile of my home in Maine and I've made it my goal since June 29, 2014, to visit and photograph the pond for one year.

What has evolved since June is The Poetry of Place: reflections from the edge of the pond. Not merely documentary, I have tried to wade into the soul of this unique little pond. Unspoiled by development along its shore, Little Clemons Pond has touched me in ways no other landscape has. It has opened my eyes to a whole new way of seeing and for that I am truly thankful.

It's not what you look at that matters,
it's what you see.
                                                                 - Henry David Thoreau

What I've seen has surprised even me.

I've begun to see the pond in terms of gentle and sometimes subtle abstractions. Tentative at first because I was a bit afraid of letting go of imagery.

Early on I made photographs that attempted to reflect the lyrical nature I found at the pond. I called these images Intimacies. I began to experiment with processing the photographs in a more painterly way. Something I'd never tried before.

But as I became more and more immersed in the poetic elements of this place, I took a giant leap.

Once I began to see the reflections in the mirror-like surface of the water I had to acknowledge the masterful hand of Nature that creates these amazing abstract expressionist renderings. I simply chose a particular part of Her composition to translate into my photography detaching it from any reference to what caused the reflections.

The world is but a canvas to our imagination.
                                                                                                            - Henry David Thoreau

Every visit to the pond has brought me to a new and different place with my camera work. I felt completely liberated to explore new ways to depict what I found there. A friend took me out in his canoe so I could look at the pond from the inside out rather than my usual outside in. That too changed my relationship with the pond.

That is yet another thing I am thankful for ... this new co-conspiracy with the landscape. I rarely see myself as a silent witness but as an active participant with the pond. We are a team. Some days I just go and sit by the pond and work on a haiku, another new adventure for me, but the pond has inspired so many. She, and I do see the feminime quality of this place, invites me to watch the seasons slowly change along her shores; watching the ever revolving wheel of the year turn. The dazzling fall season is slowly but inextricably fading as the trees rust on the hillsides. 

This has been a warm and lengthy interval between the heat of summer and the frosts of late autumn.

It seems to me the landscape is having a final and furious fling before it gives itself up to the starkness of a Maine winter. The calendar page drops away and I know the time has come to embrace a new reality. I've watched summer melt into fall and now fall fades into that in-between place that some call November. The leaves and the pine needles engage the pond in an intimate embrace smothering the shore as they let go of the trees that held them tightly in their grasp all summer.

A chill may pervade the air but I find the slowly disappearing color a relief. I am looking forward to cold and snow and ice in a way I never have before when I only saw it as a nuisance to be dealt with. Now it will transform my pond in new and magical ways and I know that it will transform my camera work as well.

November is that time of transition and I feel my photographs becoming more and more experimental as I struggle to transcribe the pond's metamorphosis in visual terms. I find the need to visit more frequently now and often only with pen and paper and not camera, in hand. Then, when I do return with the camera, I find my response to the pond more intuitive and authentic.

November Night

Silent in the black woods wait

'round a sleeping,
moonlit pond

Owls keep watch with me.

Haiku #10

The pond is turning inwards and I seem to be also. I find myself returning, from time to time, to the monochrome image. As the color leaves the landscape, so it is with my photographs of it. Again, I find my camera work responding to the whispers of the pond.

I have nearly seven more months left in this project but already it feels as if I have been visiting and recording the pond's spiritual essence for a lifetime. I doubt that the strong bond that I've forged with this place will end just because the calendar says the year is over. One simply doesn't turn one's back on a cherished friend and I am forever thankful for Her friendship and the photographs She has gifted me.

I have a room all to myself; it is nature.
                                                                                                     - Henry David Thoreau

Please visit Patricia's blog by following this link:

You can also access the Poetry of Place posts so far by following this link:


Peggy said...

What beautiful images you are showing today. Returning over a period of time has allowed you to see different views that go beyond simple picture taking and elevate it to an art.

kelly said...

I so enjoyed reading how your beloved pond has inspired you to see things through new eyes. How your relationship with this beautiful place has evolved and how you've captured it so poetically with your camera. What a fantastic way to start the week! Thank you so much!!

kybarb said...

Beautiful photos and words. I would love to find my own Walden pond and am encouraged to keep searching for it after seeing these photos! Thank you so much.

Dotti said...

I am totally mesmerized by your pond and the photos are brilliant! It seems you really are finding the 'soul' of this place that you call 'my Walden'. It will be exciting to watch how this project evolves over the next eight months, so fascinating. And it seems you're not only getting to know your pond better but getting to know yourself better. Thank you so much, Patricia, for sharing this lovely piece of your life with us.

Carol said...

OK - I can't help but notice the spam above - we are not giving away anything but peace here, as evidenced by this beautiful post. Patricia, I am so honored to have met you and your generous soul. Since we met, I have started making photo accordian books , as you have described in your blog and as I saw in person.I love then , and find its a real meditative practice after a shoot or a trip.
Your blog is beautiful, but you have outdone yourself here at FOL. I started my morning living through you - and the peace you started my day off with has persisted all through this busy work day. Thank you for that gift! Your pond and your thoughts are beautiful!

gina said...

What a beautiful post, both words and images! The pond is your muse -- what gifts it shares with you. How wonderful to have found your Walden. There was a pond in park near my former home, and I visited it frequently and felt so connected to it. It's been two years, and I still miss it Thank you for this inspiring post.

Dotti said...

{PS - Spam has been removed.}

Patricia Turner said...

Thank you all so very much for your kind comments on my post. In this month of giving thanks, this is another thing I am thankful for...the opportunity to share my little pond with you all. I hope you too can find your own personal Walden, be it pond or wood or mountain top. The place doesn't matter, what you bring to that place does.

Linda said...

Thank you Patricia for your inspiring words. Choosing to study an object for a length of time certainly has it's rewards. Your beautiful pictures are proof!

Cathy H. said...

Patricia, your work is wonderful and always brings such a peace to me! I love your pond series and will certainly look forward to the snow and ice as it magically transforms the pond.

Susan Licht said...

Patricia, your work is pure poetry. As a lover of Thoreau and a frequent visitor to Concord and Walden Pond, your work resonates with me. I love how you have found your own little Walden in Maine. I look forward to visiting your blog and seeing more of your wonderful work.

heyjudephotography said...

What a romantic concept - finding your own Walden. I love Thoreau, and Walden is sitting on my night stand right now. Beautiful words and photos. Just a lovely, lovely post. Thank you Patricia.

leigh said...

Such a beautiful post Patricia! I am a huge Walden fan ever since I was introduced to him in my 10th grade english class. Finding your own Walden Pond is such a beautiful concept and really resonates with me. Thank you for your beautiful insight.

Kim Stevens said... resonates with me, as I have a few places that are my Walden Pond. I have been photographing several spots now for a few years, one of my favorite places being a special sunrise place and no matter how many times I am there - there is always something new to see, or maybe just a new way to see it. Another fan of Thoreau here too!! Thank you for this beautiful post.

Cathy said...

Oh my this was amazing. Yes, your work is pure poetry. Thank you so much for sharing with us!

susan said...

so surreal. simple elegance. stunning. thought provoking. a cherished bond.

thank you...

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