At Home in the Secret

Photographers, or artists of any kind, are probably more aware than most people are of fortuitous coincidings, of happy or regrettable appearances and disappearances:  “I could kick myself for not having shot that scene the first time I saw it, and now it’s gone!”  Or:  “I sure am glad I photographed that building with the graffiti last month, because they’ve knocked the whole thing down!”  And, especially around Halloween, both great and popular artworks engage us with unseen forces, unexplained happenings, intimations of malevolent or benevolent magics.

Earlier this year, a bit of such elvish fortune occurred (as it does from time to time) in my photographic life.  Certain friends of mine who know my work would not be surprised that it would happen, as it did, around evening, in the woods.  (Evidence for such a view might be taken, for instance, from my website’s “To See in the Dark” portfolio.)

In late winter, the ground was beginning to thaw.  I was walking near twilight in a small wood near my home, when I happened on an abandoned livingroom couch.  It lay at the edge of a dirt path, flat on a wooden pallet.  I snapped a few pictures, as notes, thinking that perhaps I could have made something from it if at least I’d had a couple of flashes with me.  Even so, I thought it somehow fell short.

couch_in_woods_etc-by_lawrence_russ-_l0a0681

But walking back that way a month later, I found that someone or someones had, whatever their intention, arranged a gift for me.  The couch had been dragged about twenty feet from where it had been, onto sloping ground near the base of a tree.  Its bottom raised up more, the bulky couch tilted at an angle had now struck a livelier pose. The biggest surprise, though, was my discovery that neighborhood spooks, vandals, or photography sprites had painted in big black letters on the fabric skirt below the seat this single word:   “FLYing.”  Had I missed it the first time?  What did its author intend?  No way to know, but it was certainly good fortune for me.

I hurried home and returned with three Speedlites and a couple of light stands.  Dark woods, digital darkroom, and here it is:

at_home_in_the_secret-by_lawrence_russ

“At Home in the Secret” by Lawrence Russ

The felicity continued.  I wanted to submit the photograph for an exhibition, and the A Smith Gallery in Texas was soliciting entries for a juried “Habitat” show.  What could be more homey than a livingroom couch?  (Although, of course, mine was not in a comfy frontroom.)  Almost without thinking about it, just recognizing that I needed a good title and didn’t want something as obvious as “Couch in the Woods” or “Flying,” it popped up as if from behind a tree:  “At Home in the Secret.”  (I hope that you like it, too.)

A little twilit magic in it all — which continued when the “Habitat” juror, Julie Blackmon, chose the photo for the exhibition, and the Gallery’s owner, Amanda Smith, gave it a Director’s Honorable Mention.

http://asmithgallery.com/exhibitions/habitat/

My friends and fiends, in case you don’t hear from me again before Halloween, I’ll wish you happy hauntings now and hope that you like my darkling photograph.  And I won’t warn you not to walk in the woods at nightfall.

About Lawrence Russ

Was the Alfred P. Sloan Scholar for the Humanities at the University of Michigan. Obtained a Master of the Fine Arts degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where I was selected as a Writing Fellow in Poetry by the Program faculty. Have published poems, essays and reviews in many magazines, anthologies, reference works, and other publications, including The Nation, The Iowa Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Parabola, OMNI, and the exhibition catalogue for Art at the Edge of the Law at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum. Received a law degree from the University of Michigan, and have changed the law and created educational programs in the fields of arts law, historic preservation law, and public construction and contracting law in the State of Connecticut. My photographs have appeared in international, national, regional and state juried exhibitions, and have been selected for awards by jurors including Judy Kim of the Brooklyn Museum and Eva Sutton, Chair of the Photography Department of the Rhode Island School of Design.

Posted on October 25, 2016, in Creative Power, My Photography, The Artist's Life and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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