Kintsugi

SSA Photography (78 of 400)

In an series of three poignant essays, F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that he was fractured like a dinner plate that you would hide from the neighbors if they came over.  One of the greatest writers of the early 20th Century had indeed “cracked” under the pressure of his own success.  I identified with Fitzgerald’s essays—and Fitzgerald himself—on many levels, except that once cracked up, Fitzgerald never ventured to put himself back together again.

The Japanese have a beautiful word, kintsugi, which is the art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer, generally mixed with powdered precious metals like gold.  Kintsugi, however, stretches far beyond the art form.  It has become a philosophy, which accentuates the breakage and repair of the object as evidence of its history—rather than something to disguise or sweep into the dustbin.  The fractures are part of the object’s story, part of its beautiful memory.

We are all broken, some of us more than others, but these faults, these breaks shape who we are when we come out the other side—but only if we venture to put ourselves back together again like a shattered vase in the hands of an artist.

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Point Lobos Pelicans

SSA Photography (294 of 400)

This photograph of a large pod of pelicans was taken at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, just outside of Carmel, California.  Pelicans have significant historical and cultural value, including in Egyptian mythology, where the pelican was believed to be able to to prophesy safe passage in the underworld for someone who had died.  Interestingly, Alcatraz was so named by the Spanish because of the large number of pelicans roosting there.  The word alcatraz is itself derived from the Arabic al-caduos, a term used for a water-carrying vessel and likened to the pouch of the pelican.  In the Christian context, pelicans were viewed as a paragon of piety based, in part, on the belief that a mother pelican was particularly attentive to her young, to the point of providing her own blood by wounding her own breast when no other food was available.  As such, pelicans are associated with the Passion of Christ and the Eucharist.

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Shadow Play

SSA Photography (89 of 400)

Taken at Big Talbot Island, north of Jacksonville, Florida, the lines and shadows of this photograph of driftwood cobbled together on the beach draw the eye to the center of the mass of wood.  After the hurricane last year, this particular grouping of driftwood is no longer on the beach, so I was fortunate to capture it when I did.

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Stepped Ruins

SSA Photography (107 of 400)

This photograph was taken in Brevard, North Carolina.  The property was once home to a summer camp and hippie commune, and was frequented by Woodie Guthrie, Pete Seeger and their ilk.  All that remains of this cabin are low walls and these steps.  Though I usually opt for monochrome photographs, the colors of the stones were so unique that I did not want to lose them in converting the photograph to black and white.

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Rivulets

 

SSA Photography (272 of 400)

The beauty of the coastline of California is undeniable.  The  Pacific is magnetic, and I am drawn back to the West Coast when I am away for any length of time.  This outcropping, just off the coast of Carmel-by-the-Sea, fascinates me, and I spent quite a while trying to capture a photograph to do it justice.  I wanted to take one of the august waves crashing over the top, but ultimately I was struck by the hidden power of the little silent rivers that have carved away the stone over the millennia.  There is no great force to the rivulets; they work by sheer repetition and determination.  The streams of water cascade over the outcropping each time even a moderately sized wave crashes upon the rock, carrying a grain of sand or two, and slowly they peel away the layers of the hard stone – a testament to the often-hidden power of nature.

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York Minster

SSA Photography (336 of 400)

I rarely take photographs with people in them, but the ones that I do turn out to be some of my favorites, as you can see in my “Solitary” gallery.  This photograph of York Minster Cathedral was taken in my most recent trip to England.  I had visited a Gothic cathedral years before in Palma, Mallorca (La Seu), but I was still taken aback by the august size of York Minster.   This was Kemper’s first taste of Gothic architecture, and though I know that the grandeur was lost on him a bit, at the very least he will have context now when he is introduced to arches, vaults, and flying buttresses later in his life.

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