Lake Series

The Lake Series, 1981-82  
Part I: The Straight Photographs
Image sizes:  10.5  x  10.5” 
dry mounted on 16x20" board

I visited Milwaukee, Wi. in 1975 for a teaching job interview, and I was taken to a few locations around town that presented wonderful views of Lake Michigan.  There was one moment, standing on a high bluff, overlooking the vast space where water and sky conjoin in a slight distant mist that made the horizon line  almost disappear, when I felt my heart leap into that space.  I swore to myself that if I got that job I would make a series of photographs that would honor that vastness of space, that dissolving horizon line, that beautiful body of water, that light . . . and my experience of it.

I got the job, but it took me several years - six to be exact - to get up the courage to confront the Lake and that vast space and begin the project.  Though I lived only eight short blocks from the lake and saw it often I was waiting until I felt really ready to do the work.

I was intimidated - by the vastness of the space, by the technical problems of getting the film developed evenly, by getting the pictorial space, tones, and light just right so that the picture succeeded in honoring not only the lake, the space, the light, but also my experience.  

It’s really surprising how little space one can into the rectangle of a camera when photographing such a large space, and yet my goal was to get that feeling of vastness into my photographs.  At the same time, I wanted the print to draw the viewer into an intimacy with the immensity of the pictorial space, something Bachelard wrote about so beautifully in his book Poetics of Space.  I decided to make the print size relatively small, 10.5x10.5 inches to help draw the viewer closer to the print and then into the picture space..

It has been thirty years now since I completed this project.  I stopped printing with chemicals in 2007 so the images you’ll see reproduced on this web page are one-of-a-kind vintage prints that have remained in my personal collection after all these years.  

I live in Canandaigua, NY now.  When I visit Lake Ontario or Canandaigua Lake or some of the other Finger Lakes in my region, I often feel the urge to make more Lake pictures.  However, I know that work has already been done and if I make an exposure now it will have to be part of some new project such as The Departing Landscape, Windswept Landscapes or Celestial Gardens.  Still, the impulse to take yet another photograph of vast space over water I believe comes from being in a true or intimate relationship with the space, both out therewithin myself, and in the  imagined photograph.

Anyways, I don’t think these early lake pictures are about Lake Michigan.  They are for me about opening to and confronting terrifying vast space;  about my longing to have an intimate relationship with vastness;  about putting the horizontal line in the right place in the square, and other things. 

I love these pictures.  Through the 18 months of photographing in all kinds of weather, at all times of day, from high and low vantage points, I finally succeeded in honoring the promise I made to myself; and I finally made friends with the space, the sky, the water, the light, the infinite variations on the horizon line.  It's a pleasure to once again bring them out of their boxes to share them with you.

The Collage Set is another story, but they complete the Lake Series project in ways I never could have imagined until I heard the music of Charles Ives one day.  I heard that music in a new way because of the lake pictures I had been making.  

Below are 15 straight photographs from the Lake Series and then 15 collage photographs from the Lake Series.

















The Lake Series, 1981-82
Part II:  The Collage Set 
Homage to Charles Ives  
Image sizes:  10.5  x  10.5” dry mounted on 16x20" board

One day as I was listening to the music of Charles Ives on my stereo I got the idea of cutting out the best parts of some of my less than completely successful straight lake photographs and collaging the horizontal strips together into a new square picture.  The lake collages are perhaps visual equivalents for perception, the way we create an image in time out of multiple time-space glimpses.  They also visually correspond to the way Ives collaged parts of popular song melodies into his "classical" compositions.   

The Collage Set constitutes a separate but integral part of the Lake Series.  The straight prints are for me contemplative - an 18 month meditation on space and light and the horizon line - that mysterious place where sky and water meet in infinite space and sometimes dissolve into nothing.  The Collages are much more aggressive.  They are about space-time; horizontally layered simultaneously occurring multiple events coexisting with each other, suspended together . . .within a single unified frame-of-reference.  

The two series go together beautifully for me, creating together a greater more complex visual whole which more completely approximates the range of my experiences, moods and ideas.
















Visit Related Projects: 

Other Music-Inspired Projects.   
The Meadow  2008-ongoing

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.