Welcome to the Essential Light Photography Blog By Jim Sabiston

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Organic Films

One finds inspiration and vision in the most unexpected places.

Following by wife's insistence that I take a break from my seemingly never ending backlog of work, I accepted her suggestion that we take our new pup for a walk in a local park. Getting outside into the fresh air and sunshine is never a bad idea, so I happily acquiesced and off we went.

Naturally, I packed a small camera, 'just in case'.

The walk was pleasant and we casually made our way to the shore of the Great South Bay. Gardinor Park has one of the very few remaining undeveloped stretches of beach on the northern shore of Great Cove. As we strolled along the shoreline I noticed that one of the recent storms had washed up great sheets of sea lettuce, which now lay stretched and bleaching in the sun. My first thought was that I'd never seen that much sea lettuce before and that it was a bit of an odd, if messy sight. On the first pass, I paid it little attention, focused as I was on Nancy and the pup. On the return pass, Nancy struck up a conversation with another dog owner and I wandered over to the shoreline to see if there was anything interesting about.

That was when I noticed , really noticed, the sea lettuce. It was stretched in thin layers over a fairly broad expanse of the beach. As it bleached and dried in the sun, it had taken on a fantastic texture which could be seen if one got right down close to it. Out came the Leica and off I went, looking for the most interesting bits and snapping away.

It was fantastic. The normally nondescript sea lettuce had taken on an entirely new presence in its decaying transformation. Visually, it had actually become MORE organic in appearance as it decayed. I processed the images in high contrast monochrome to bring out the incredible details in full.

(click on image to enlarge)
I recall the fascination many years ago when I had first seen images produced by an electron microscope. A whole new world of astounding, living textures had been exposed to me. I immediately recognized that same experience in the textures of the fading sea lettuce, the thin algae form having taken on a new structure as it compressed, folded and stretched into semi-transparency as it dried out.

(click on image to enlarge)
The end effect is at once fascinating and a bit creepy, in a deeply thought provoking way. The textures project this inescapable organic presence. Studying the final 12 images in the series, I can't help but be forced to recognize the fragility of life within these thin, semitransparent structures. The connection to our physical and, ultimately, our inner selves is direct, speaking to the soft, albeit tough, reality of skin, muscle and sinew. The emotional message is more subtle, of course, addressing the stretched, thinness of self as we age and, eventually fade. These films are dying or, more likely, already dead, their cogent mortality immediate and stretched out, ready for study by the sensitive witness. The images conjure thoughts of human faces - old, dark, leathery. Sun cooked by years of exposure to the raw, burnishing elements and time's unforgiving hand, the ancient fisherman's sun drenched soul exposed.

This is my journey. Photography paves the way. Thank you for joining me for a few moments.