Linda Grashoff's Photography Adventures

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.

15 responses

  1. I recognise your struggle and love your work 👍

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    June 10, 2018 at 3:48 AM

    • Thank you, Alastair. Decades later, it’s still hard and scary to wrote about my journey, so I really appreciate your recognition.

      Liked by 1 person

      June 10, 2018 at 8:51 AM

  2. Outstanding Photo, Linda. I confess that I have a soft spot in my heart for the films that you photograph and that they are my favorites. Your book is an excellent example, of that, also.
    I have not had your experience in the struggle of the material world but I have long been aware of its presence on everyone I know (myself included to a lesser degree). There is no doubt it can be difficult to explain but I’m at peace with it and I don’t think about it much anymore. Probably a sign of the aging process. I’ve learned to be more tolerant of other peoples beliefs even though I’m not in complete agreement with them. My lifelong photography interests were never in documenting the world as it exists (although the Museum photography helps with that) but only as I see it and only for an instant in time.

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    June 10, 2018 at 9:27 AM

    • I’m happy to learn of your soft spot for the Leptothrix discophora films, Ken. I saw many of them the day I took this photograph, but this is the only photo I took that is worth sharing. I’m sure there will be more later this summer and fall. I appreciate your lifelong photography interests, as I appreciate your photography. Even though most of my own photography is documentary, lately I have been bending my images to incorporate how I feel about what I photograph. The “Into the Woods” and “Then out of the Woods” images, for example, are probably somewhat darker than the reality of that day, even though the sky was overcast. The darker shades seemed richer to me, and reflected how I felt about how things looked.

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      June 10, 2018 at 9:39 AM

  3. I’m so happy to have made your acquaintance here in cyberspace; it enriches my life. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around Eddy’s ideas, nor does Berkeley make sense to me personally. I too love the living, breathing physical world as it is, and I recognize that our minds are not separate from it – what we call reality and our perceptions and thoughts – our minds – it’s a complex dance. I felt alone at first, when I realized the religious system I grew up with didn’t work for me, and I kept quiet about it. Then when I left home, I felt free to figure out which ideas made sense and which didn’t, on my own, with little interference. I think your struggle was much more intense, but the result has been glorious: a rich body of work. Maybe it’s because you had to burn important bridges and take big risks to get here. The power of the Leptothrix images you’ve made reflects the power of the emotional struggle, I think.
    I appreciate your words. In the age of selfies and countless narcissistic blogs, your restraint is admirable, even more so, your honesty. Happy Leptothrix, and everything else hunting!

    Liked by 1 person

    June 10, 2018 at 1:13 PM

  4. Thank you for this gift, Lynn. When I hear the Internet being badmouthed—even justifiably—I want to say “yeah but.” I have been able to maintain old friendships and develop new ones online. The web has given me the opportunity to share my work, which has stimulated me to make more. And it has allowed me to see and learn from the art work and narrative of others—including, notably, you. Berkeley’s and Eddy’s notions don’t make sense to me, but early indoctrination can be powerful, and I think I still need to beat back those ideas. The wonder is that doing it is joyful. It’s not so much “Take that!” as it is “Oh, here’s another way to think about things; how about this?” Yes, the beginning was lonely for me, but now I connect with other people around the glory of the physical world. I’m happy that you aren’t putting this blog post into the narcissistic bucket; I was afraid it might belong there.

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    June 10, 2018 at 2:09 PM

    • No, like Alan says, this is in no way narcissistic. I would echo all your thoughts about how the internet has affected (y)our life and work. It’s good to know the impetus is more joy than anger or revenge, and I can certainly sense that. Being endlessly curious about people, I do like hearing about the backstory, so thanks for propping the door open a crack. That was a bad mixed metaphor, wasn’t it? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      June 11, 2018 at 2:52 PM

  5. ag

    Thanks, Linda, for sharing the inspiration behind your photography. For as long as I’ve been visiting this blog, you’ve struck me as a very modest person. Indeed, narcissism is one of the last qualities I’d ever associate with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 10, 2018 at 10:10 PM

  6. I’m going to need to read this Post and all the comments several time to soak up the deep thinking that is contained within. Life is a journey, and as photographers we are also on a visual journey. I am reminded of this Quote by Søren Kierkegaard. He said: ‘Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.’ We are who and what we are because of what has gone before. Strange how religion so often clouds our lives. My parents were Evangelical Christians. It was in some respects a supportive environment in which to grow up, but also a very isolating one, detached from a materialistic world. It’s when we mature (and I have now reached my three score and ten years!) that we see the past through fresh eyes. Photographically my parents shaped my ‘eye’ – my father as botanist, ornithologist and walker, and my mother as a lover of beautiful things. If I was to sum up what draws me to an image it is a sense of beauty – but not always in a conventional sense. Shape, form, pattern, tone has beauty just as much as more conventional ideas of beauty. I see beauty in these films that you find and capture, Linda, and today’s is a stunning example.

    Liked by 2 people

    June 12, 2018 at 6:28 AM

    • Thank you, Andy, for this thoughtful writing. The concept that we are created by our past is what allows me to accept and forgive troubling experiences in my history. I’m happy with my life now, and I know it wouldn’t be the same without those “bad” times. . . . The formal aspects of the material world (shape, form, and so forth) are the principle draw for me and my photography practice as well. . . . I’m happy you like the microbial films!

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      June 12, 2018 at 11:48 AM

  7. Yes, as Andy (LensScaper) says, “Strange how religion so often clouds our lives.”. I was lucky, my parents simply weren’t religious; school had a go at drumming basic Christianity into me but I was already arguing back – our religion teacher was bald and very pink, so we boys knicknamed him Pinky – and I think I made him a little pinker. And as for Ms Baker’s definition of reality, well I can in no way subscribe to that. Be yourself, is my advice, and keep on keeping on! A 🙂

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    June 12, 2018 at 6:43 AM

  8. Very well put Linda. And your work is a fine example of those thoughts made concrete. Wonderful work!

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    June 28, 2018 at 3:31 PM

    • Thank you, Art. As you know, I have followed you and your work by means of your blog for some time. I admire your artistic sensitivity and skill very much, so your appreciation of what I do is all the more touching.

      Liked by 1 person

      June 28, 2018 at 3:48 PM

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