Field of Vision pt.3 : Commentaries on selected photographs

Field of Vision  Part 3  

Below are commentaries on seven of the twelve Field of Vision symmetrical photographs presented in part 1.  As a prelude to the commentaries I am presenting a brief yogic text which my Meditation Master, Swami Chidvilasanda cited in one of her talks.  I was quite surprised when I read this for it contains many of the themes I've been exploring in this and the project and the preceding one, As Above, So Below: Mirror In the Temple.  
(the quote below is from Darshan magazine #106)

The Universe is Shiva's own garden, meant for a joyous stroll,
Not for attachment, jealousy, aversion, anxiety, or hostility.
This universe is Shiva's own image,
Meant for his worship . . . 
This universe is a temple containing the mirror of Shiva.
He who looks into it, feeling one with Shiva,
Sees his own images and reflections, sees Shiva everywhere.

on selected photographs
Click on the images to see them rendered in a higher mode of quality and detail 

Field of Vision project, symmetrical photograph, image #4

Commentary #1
At the end of one of my two picture-making strolls in Vermont, Gloria's sister Phyllis invited me to see one of her most favorite places in the woods.  When we entered the space I was surprised at how different it looked and felt there: the interior space was more open; the light seemed like it belonged to the place itself rather than coming from outside; it was quieter there and the space as a whole seemed filled with a magical presence.  I remarked to Phyllis that it felt like we had just entered a cathedral.  

Though I did not make any photographs in Phyllis's special place, the picture above has some of the same atmospheric feeling.  Like so many of my other symmetrical images, this photograph holds in tense balance a carpet-like abstract spatial flatness as it simultaneously describes a vaster, deeper natural space.   When I contemplate images like this and hold the two apparently opposite visual qualities together in my mind, a third intermediary imaginative space emerges in my awareness as compelling as the other two.  Corbin has named this realm the imaginal world.  The image above is for me filled with a living quality, what Anderson refers to as being and presence.  It is an impersonal presence, and a bit intimidating to me.  It reminds me of some Tibetan temple paintings I have seen, images of demon-like "protectors" of Buddhism.  I am thinking in particular of Yama, the Indian god of death.  click here to see an image of Yama   (I feel similarly about the image in contemplation #7)


Field of Vision project, symmetrical photograph, image #8

Commentary #2
It was raining hard when we arrived at Phyllis and Jim's house in Vermont in the late afternoon near the end of October, 2015.  It had been raining all that day, and it continued to rain throughout the night.  But in the morning the sun came out, and its brilliant light majestically illuminated the mist rising into the atmosphere.  Everything was silvery light!  The earth had turned into Heaven!  I got my camera and went outside and photographed for a few minutes until the heat of the sunlight finally began consuming the tiny suspended water droplets.  

I took a source photograph that morning which yielded the fascinating symmetrical image presented above.  Though I like it very much I am a bit reserved about it.  I have often found it very difficult if not impossible to make a meaningful (i.e. symbolic) photograph of subject matter already graced with so much beauty.  (How much grace it must take to create a beautiful, transcendent photograph from something so wondrous to begin with!)  

The line between pictorial revelation and pictorial cliche' can be extremely thin sometimes.  Is this image a mere Christmas ornament? or does it function as a mirror which unveils hidden aspects of the universe, the soul?  Titus Burkhardt's statement about the symbolism of the curtain seems relevant here:  According to a saying of the Prophet, God hides Himself behind seventy thousand curtains of light and of darkness; "if they were taken away, all that His sight reaches would be consumed by the lightnings of His Countenance."  The curtains are made of light in that they hide the Divine "obscurity," and of darkness in that they veil the Divine Light.  from Sacred Art in East and West 


Field of Vision project, symmetrical photograph, image #10

Commentary #3
Just a day or two before Gloria and I left on our trip to Vermont I thought I noticed some movement in the driveway just beyond our front porch.  I went to our front door to have a closer view and beheld a rather magical event.  

Our driveway goes straight out to Chatham Lane from our small front porch; and another small part of the driveway goes off to the right toward the garage door.  In that space between our house and the garage--in that intersection where the two parts of the driveway conjoin--there was a circle of leaves swirling around and around with great intensity.  The leaves seemed to be trembling as they performed their ritual-like dance.  The strong breezes coming off the Bristol Hills from the south, and the the architectural space constellated by the proximity of the garage to our house, had together created a whirlwind.  Without the leaves, it occurred to me, the wind's presence would probably have remained invisible, unnoticed.   

The round wind-form, with its strange, intensely vibrant natural rhythm, had a numinous quality that looked and felt quite auspicious to me at the time.  It occurs to me now that it was as if a sign, or a prelude to what I would encounter in Vermont, and the "circular" photographs I would make . . . such as the one presented above (and below).


Field of Vision project, symmetrical photograph, image #12

Commentary #4
This photograph glows with a light that seems to come from the other side.  I am inside looking out.  But, inside what?  Inside an unfolding rose?  Inside a camera?  Inside a photographic image?  Perhaps we are inside a temple looking up at its dome constellated of honeycomb forms?

While the dome of a sacred building represents the universal Spirit [undifferentiated Unity], the octagonal "drum" that supports it . . . corresponds to the eight directions of the "rose of the winds."   . . .   A mosque generally comprises a court with a fountain in its center . . . in the likeness of Paradise.   . . .   It is in the nature of Paradise to be hidden and secret; it corresponds to the interior world, the innermost soul.  Titus Burkhardt : Art of Islam

Yes! this is a view of the interior world, the innermost soul.  If I were to put my eye right up against the center of the image, and look through its diamond shaped center-point, perhaps I would see myself strolling in the Vermont woods; perhaps I would see myself pointing the camera into the center of this round spiritual body of self-luminous leaves. 


Field of Vision project, symmetrical photograph, image #11

Commentary #5
This symmetrical photograph achieves a fascinating level of abstraction that is relatively unusual in my photographic output.  The image shimmers and resonates with a powerful presence; and it seems to be both static and expanding outward, beyond the boundaries of the picture's frame.  Indeed, its expansive nature, its complex but orderly visual unfoldment with infinite numbers of earth-colored geometric shapes . . . suggests cosmic limitlessness and at the same time a state of suspension in unity.     

The sense of Unity that pervades every aspect of this image seems, as I have said before, impersonal to me.  The picture is not about me, at least not in the personal sense.  I don't feel as if I even made the photograph.  Still, I have come to deeply appreciate the kind of beauty that seems to function so independently of my personal identity, my earnest personal efforts.  I long for my photographs to somehow manifest the Divine, or some transcendent aspect of my self, and yet it seems possible only when I surrender to "my" creative process.   Perhaps it is the impersonal nature of this image which allows a sacred or transcendent feeling to shine through it.  

Like so many of the other Field of Vision photographs, there is an archetypal character in the form of this picture; the circle, the diamond and the square motif is a dominant structure which underlies most of my symmetrical photographs.  This hardly explains why the images succeed at functioning for me as symbols, images which in the truest sense are ineffable in their "meaning."  True symbols transcend not only the limits of time and space; they transcend language.     

But of course each viewer's response is, finally, a subjective experience.  Each viewer must take responsibility for what he or she sees and feels and internalizes as meaning when they contemplate any image.   


Field of Vision project, symmetrical photograph, image #2

Commentary #6
This photograph haunts me, though it's not as colorful or luminous as some of the other pictures in the series.  At first glance perhaps it's not so dramatic, but it does have a bold, dark structure that I find captivating.  

The image reminds me of Christopher Alexander's comment about his being an attempt "to make God appear in the middle of a field."  Indeed, I took the source photograph for this symmetrical image while standing in the middle of a field of tall plants with grey-green leaves.  In the background there were several shadowy dark tree trunks of varying sizes bordering another field much lighter in tone, with much smaller plants.  

In the symmetrical construction of the source image, the lighter background tonal field becomes the in-between space, the space that separates the two larger (top and bottom) horizontal fields of taller grey-green plants.  Most importantly, all three horizontal spaces are united by what appears to be an echoing series of dark, round-cornered diamond shapes, which at first is almost hidden, but which then gradually emerges into a more bold presence, a dark graphic interlacement within the image field.  As the bands grow thicker and darker with the unfolding of the image outward from its center-point, the diamond shape becomes surprisingly, mysteriously omniscient . . . It's Alexander's "God" appearing in the middle of a field!  


Field of Vision project, symmetrical photograph, image #1

Whatever life you have . . . live it very well and you'll be ecstatic.  You'll find so much joy in what you're doing.  We need to understand this and to remember it all the time.  God created everything out of His own bliss.  There is joy in everything and in everyone.  It is up to us to derive joy from it. . .  Every life has its own ecstasy, its own joy.  But we need to accept it completely.  Gurumayi  Chidvilasananda  Darsahan magazine #58

Commentary #7
This fiery, ecstatically beautiful, intimidating, infinitely expanding Image of Perfection and Unity, reminds me of traditional Turkish Sufi carpets.  The living energy, joy and mystery which the image projects with its its trembling leafage, its wing-like visual fluttering, its shimmering interior luminosity  . . .  still's my mind when I can gather enough focused attention to truly contemplate it.  With a cursory viewing I am a little frightened by the image.  It may be trying to overwhelm me with its energy in an effort to hide or protect something.  Its like I am being tested by the image.  If I pass the test I can enter through its door at the very center of the image.

I need to make friends with this image, to join with it.  Thus, I keep returning to it, contemplating it over and over again, trying to go deeper into it and myself.  One of the ways I do this is by peering into its center.  There I connect with its multiple pairs of eyes which seem to be staring at me, in one moment blankly, then in the next moment directly into my eyes, inviting me in with a softness I couldn't at first recognize.  Perhaps those "eyes" are mirroring not only my own eyes and the symmetrical form of my own face, but some deeper state of being which I'm either longing for or needing to more consciously recognize in myself.  ~  This is an Image of Pure Being, the Absolute, my own sacred divine Self.

This is what it means to contemplate: to "set one's sights on" Heaven from the temple that defines the field of vision.  By the same token, the idea of contemplation introduces the idea of consecration.  The term was actually used above all to designate the field of Heaven, the expanse of the open Heaven where the flight of birds could be observed and interpreted.  Henry Corbin : Temple and Contemplation (part 5)  

The process of contemplating an image ultimately leads to its interiorization.  When I take this image inside myself and imaginatively hold it, suspended, in silence . . . eventually its creative energy--its joy, its ecstasy--begins to be absorbed into my being.  Light merges into light: the image has become as if a window or door which opens and through which I am given entrance to the most sacred space, the Templum of my own heart.  Here I can have what Rumi calls a "silent [or secret] conversation," which for Rumi was an interior wordless dialogue with his teacher Shams-i-Tabrizi.   For me, the silent conversation is with my interior guru, my divine Self.  

Imaginative vision becomes vision of the heart . . . the heart being the organ, the "eye" by which God sees Himself: the contemplant is the contemplated (my vision of Him is His vision of me). . .  In its ultimate degree, the Image will be a vision of the "Form of God" corresponding to the innermost being of the contemplant, who experiences himself as the microcosm of the Divine Being; a limited Form, like every form, but a Form which as such . . . emanates an aura, a "field" which is always open to "recurrent creations."  This presupposes of course a basic visionary Imagination, a "presence of the heart" in the intermediate world . . . an intermediate world which is the encounter (the conjunction, the "conspiration") of the spiritual and the physical . . .  Henry Corbin: Alone with the Alone

There are four paths in the above symmetrical image which either meet at or radiate from its center-point.  It is well known that the theme of many Sufi carpets is the Celestial Paradisal Garden which contains four rivers flowing in the four cardinal directions which meet at the center of the garden, often in the form of an overflowing fountain which can also function as a mirror of heaven.  (visit my project Celestial Gardens)   But Titus Burkhardt says the most perfect carpets represent nothing in particular; they reflect the cosmos on their own level:  "it is the image of a state of existence, or simply existence as such." ~ "All forms or happenings are woven into [the carpet] and appear unified in one and the same continuity."   Such an image, he says "dissolves the fixation of the mind on an object of desire. . .   Thus at the sight of glittering waves or of leafage trembling in the breeze, the soul detaches itself from its internal objects, from the 'idols' of passion, and plunges, vibrant within itself, into a pure state of being."  Titus Burkhardt :  Sacred Art in East and West, and Sacred Art of Islam

This "pure state of being" which Burkhardt writes of is--from a yogic perspective at least--known as bliss, joy, ecstasy.  My experience of the seven images presented in these commentaries are very similar in regard to the notion of ecstasy.  Perhaps ecstasy is another way of speaking of Beauty and Perfection:

Traditional art is concerned with beauty which is inseparable from reality and is related to the inner dimension of the Real as such--Ultimate Reality being the Absolute, the Infinite, and Perfection or Goodness.  ~   A masterpiece of traditional art is at once perfect, orderly, and mysterious.  It reflects the perfection and goodness of the Source, the harmony and order which are also reflected in the cosmos . . .  and the mystery and inwardness which open unto the Divine Infinitude itself.  Seyyed Houssein Nasr : Knowledge and the Sacred 

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This part 3 of the project "Field of Vision" 
was announced in the Latest Additions  section 
at the top of my website's Welcome Page on December 15, 2015

I invite you to fist the concluding Part IV of this project,
the Epilogue, by clicking here  

Other Related Links

On the Construction of Symmetrical Photographs
If you would like to better understand how I construct the symmetrical photographs from a single source image, here are some links to earlier projects in which I have attempted to explain it: 

On The Sacred In Art :  Seven Photography Projects

Welcome Page  to The Departing Landscape website which includes the complete hyperlinked listing of my online photography projects dating back to the 1960's, my resume, contact information, and more.