And Happy Ever After
June 10, 2018
Some of you may have figured out that my recent blog titles are playing with lyrics from Into the Woods, my favorite-of-all-time play, the musical by Stephen Sondheim. Pairing photographs of forests with the title “Into the Woods,” and joining a photograph of a partially wooded path with the title “Then Out of the Woods” are pretty straightforward, but putting a photograph of a Leptothrix discophora film with “And Happy Ever After” may need some explaining. To me, Sondheim’s play is about going into the often hidden, dark, and controversial parts of oneself to gain self-knowledge.
I’ve said some of this on the blog already: I make photographs to affirm the reality of the material world. I’m in love with physical reality, the sheer corporeal existence of things. I use photography as my medium partly because the product is, to use photographer Joel Meyerowitz’s words, “close to the thing itself.” Another way to put it is to say that I practice photography to be part of a process where a product emerges from corporeal fact: light reflects off matter to make an impression on a chemical emulsion or digital sensor.
But now I’ll go further: Philosophers have discussed the nature of reality for centuries. George Berkeley wrote in his 1710 Treatise Concerning the Principles Of Human Knowledge that the only reality is mind and ideas. I disagree, as I disagree with the religious leader Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, who wrote that reality consists only of God and his ideas; that matter does not exist.
I was raised by Christian Scientist parents, so admitting to love of the appearance and reality of things was painful for me. But moving into the woods (having those thoughts and fearing that my parents might stop loving and supporting me if they knew of them), then out of the woods (my decision to chance owning those thoughts, and even to build an art practice around them) has led to my greatest peace of mind, my happy ever after. Leptothrix discophora films have been with me—prominently—for the latter part of this journey, and that’s why this photograph that I made of one appears on this post.
This is a patch of Leptothrix discophora film that I photographed along the Vermilion River June 2.