Magic: Floating Lightly, Oak Hall, Lynchburg, TN, 1989.
Platinum-palladium print on 100% cellulose paper (Fabriano 5) from original 8×10 inch negative.

One image from a series called ‘Magic’

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Datura and Passion Flower, Berkeley, 1987.
Platinum-palladium print on 100% cellulose paper (Van Gelder Simili Japon) from original 8×10 inch negative.

My dear friend, and mentor-whose-mentorship-I-resisted, Ron Partridge, had a habit of gleaning flowers and plant material during early morning jaunts through his neighborhood. He loved that I loved datura flowers. And he loved to hear me tell him how Lord Shiva is known to knock back a lethal brew from these flowers every now and then.

This photograph was made in Ron and his wife, Elizabeth’s, kitchen sink, early one morning. I can still hear Ron whistling and fumbling around in the kitchen, keeping a (critical) eye on me.

Shiva must be knocking back some datura brew right now. Things are fairly crazy around us. One day past the Solstice.

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Ron Partridge, Water Lily 3, 1998 [included here with permission]

Magic: Date Palm and Drawing, Sewanee, 1990.
Platinum-palladium print on 100% cellulose paper (Fabriano 5) from original 8×10 inch negative.

This is one image out of a 3-cycle project called ‘Memory, Balance, Love’, which was kindly supported by the Scottish Arts Council, and first shown at the Portfolio Gallery and Workshops in Edinburgh in 1990. Part of the statement I wrote for the exhibition reads:

‘It may be useful here to recall Paul Klee’s analogy of his creative self being akin to a tree. I believe that an elemental part of this proverbial creative root system is nourished by the conditions of memory, love and balance.

With memory, the creative mind exercises that quality which is the mark of intelligence: the ability to identify patterns, hypothesize and make deductions. Love compells the creative mind to express itself, be compassionate and learn how to nurture itself. Balance, or rather, the creative mind’s desire for balanced states, is often the condition that ignites the individual into action and helps define a sense of `completeness’and perhaps even an archetypal polity. More importantly, when combined with love and memory, a sense of balance helps the creative mind to become more acute in terms of spiritual graciousness.

The Cycle: If a shape can describe the cognitive process, perhaps the spiral would be the most appropriate one. One starts any process of cognition equipped with an initial set of communicative information and knowledge (language, syntax etc.,) and proceeds, step by step, to enhance it with each new understanding and experience. In a manner of speaking, the mind sweeps over old, familiar ground in order to understand new ground, but in doing so, the old ground gets disturbed. The new ground too is destined for `disturbance’ as it becomes assimilated. With the assimilation of each `step’ comes a corresponding shift in the context that is applied to making sense of subsequent perceptions; a shift in context implies a shift in the understanding of already assimilated information. Hence the cycle establishes itself. This spiral model is perhaps best illustrated when considering a number of images arranged in a circular fashion. No matter what the initial image is, by the time one sequential viewing has been completed, it is likely that the initial image, on reconsideration, will be perceived differently. The context that these images are placed in enlarges as one progresses along the sequence. The three cycles, `Memory’, `Love’ and `Balance’, have been structured with this perceptual model in mind. It is hoped that the result will generate a fluid, spiralling poetry.’

Memory, balance and love, as we arrive at the Winter Solstice….

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Meg’s Eggs and Potatoes, Valley Ford, CA, 1993.
Platinum-palladium print on 100% cellulose paper (Fabriano 5) from original 11×14 inch negative.

‘”If you step into this circle, I will strike you. If you stand outside it, I will strike you just the same.What are you going to do?”‘ – Sōetsu Yanagi, The Unknown Craftsman, Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1972. pages 120

As we move into the Winter Solstice…

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Redwoods, Mendocino Botanical Gardens, California, 1987.
Platinum-palladium print on 100% cellulose paper (Fabriano 5) from original 8×10 inch negative.

Lotuses. Joseon Dynasty, 19th century. Joseon. ink and colors on paper. 95.0×41.2 cm. No.28945
from the Japan Folk Crafts Museum collection

“Why should one reject the perfect in favor of the imperfect? The precise and perfect carries no overtones, admits no freedom; the perfect is static and regulated, cold and hard. We in our own human imperfections are repelled by the perfect, since everything is apparent from the start and there is no suggestion of the infinite. Beauty must have some room, must be associated with freedom. Freedom, indeed, is beauty. The love of the irregular is a sign of the basic quest for freedom.”

Sōetsu Yanagi, The Unknown Craftsman, Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1972. pages 120-121

I owe a lot to Yanagi, as I try to express in words what it feels like to make and look at platinum-palladium prints. He writes about overtone, above, as an expansive necessity in art. In platinum and palladium printing, I think of it as the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, with the parts, or layers, modulating and modifying each other. The interplay between the visible layers interact with the perceptual and physical layers: what is in the negative and what is rendered in the print are the result of these parts.

(This is why I post three versions of the same print, along with a standardized color target, in all of these blogs about scans from prints. To give a better sense of the interplay.)

These parts, or overlays may or may not be compatible with each other, but, just as in the improvisatory music of Thelonious Monk or Ludwig van Beethoven, the fact of having been brought together in terms of the medium creates a harmonious whole.

As the visual experience shifts not only across the surface, but also enters into the dimensional expression of the print, I encounter texture. (The detail views.) Texture includes some of the most singular parts of photography: what the image is of, how the tonal information interplays with the paper, and how it ultimately leads us to consider what is the image about. Paper presents itself not just as surface but also as a kind of interior. Together, the print renders as texture, one that is at the same time ordered and chaotic, unchanging formlessness, always making a ‘suggestion of the infinite’.

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Redwood, Duckspool, Somerset, 1989. Platinum-palladium print on

Redwood, Duckspool, Somerset, 1989.
Platinum-palladium print on 100% cellulose paper (Fabriano 5) from original 8×10 inch negative.

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Three Sycamore Samaras (Acer Pseudoplatanus), Quarry Garth, Trou

Three Sycamore Samaras (Acer Pseudoplatanus), Quarry Garth, Troutbeck Bridge, Lake District, England, October 21, 1988.
Platinum-palladium print on 100% cellulose paper (Fabriano 5) from original 8×10 inch negative.

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California Bay Tree, Berkeley, CA, 1987. Platinum-palladium prin

California Bay Tree, Berkeley, CA, 1987. Platinum-palladium print on 100% cellulose paper (Van Gelder simili japon) from original 8×10 inch negative.

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Water, Circle. Indian Lake, Grand Canyon, 1993. Platinum-pallad

 Water, Circle. Indian Lake, Grand Canyon, 1993.
Platinum-palladium print on 100% cellulose paper (Fabriano 5) from original 8×10 inch negative.

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Willy's Steel Balls, Valley Ford, CA, 1993. Platinum-palladium p

Willy’s Steel Balls, Valley Ford, CA, 1993. Platinum-Palladium print on 100% cellulose paper (Fabriano 5) from original 11×14 inch negative.

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