07 April 2008

all around, oh all around, it's kept together by moving all around

John, Pulaski

A couple of weeks ago, I read an article about John Cage's New River watercolors; the article explained how Cage used the I Ching to simultaneously create narrow parameters and introduce chance and random movement into his paintings. I'd been thinking about doing something similar with photography for awhile--something along the lines of Eggleston's unmanned probes crawling over the surface of the earth and snapping photos every thirty seconds or so. There's certainly no lack of this type of photography now, but I sometimes like introducing games into my photography, as a way to add a little whimsy and to force myself to attempt an interesting shot no matter my location. My initial idea was to listen to some Bach or Copland's Appalachian Spring (repeatedly) while walking around town, stopping at predetermined points in the music and taking a photo.

I mentioned some of these ideas to Josh, and prior to our latest jaunt to Pulaski he consulted the I Ching. Two dominant images resulted from Josh's consultation: water (a pond or lake) and a ram getting its horns caught in a dense thicket, struggling, then breaking through into a clearing. Using the image of the lake to direct us, we headed toward a breached dam on Peak Creek in a scrubby field behind Wendy's and "Hot Wheels" used cars. That's where we met John, a laid back guy with plenty of entertaining stories. Many of his stories involved alcohol and somewhat comic violence, but an image from one of his stories describing a flash of beauty has stayed with me. Once, he told us, he had been down at the dam having a few beers with his girlfriend when a huge hawk landed on a broken limb just a few feet away from the concrete block they were resting on. The hawk stayed there, staring down at them, for what seemed like an hour. It was beautiful, he said, so large that when it flew away it shook that entire motherfuckin tree clear to the trunk.

video of John Cage performing "Water Walk" in 1960 on the tv show I've Got a Secret.

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