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Impermanence and Contemplative Photography

(I'm consolidating my photography sites, so I'll be posting a few posts from other sites here in preparation for shutting them down…)

This image is a particular favorite of mine. It was a bit of a departure for me, as I actually added an element of myself to the picture. I was planning to go to the beach by Superior Falls, as I do on most trips to the Wisconsin northwoods, and I was thinking about the slowly eroding cliffs there. This image popped into my mind, fully formed, as a way to illustrate the impermanence of everything around us, even if the change is occurring over such a span of time that we don’t see it. My wet handprint serves to echo the cliff’s impermanence, although on a different time scale. I must admit I’d forgotten about the patterns in the rock that look like fingers were dragged through it, but they serendipitously provided the perfect backdrop to my handprint.

Impermanence 7571

Wisconsin features some of the oldest exposed rock in the U.S. – you can touch rock that is somewhere between 2 and 3 billion years old. That's rock half the age of the earth touching my skin, and it gives me chills. Talk about impermanence – my entire life isn't even the blink of an eye to these rocks, and nothing I can do will endure as they have.

I find that perspective quite liberating, in many ways. In terms of photography, it frees me to make the images I want, ephemeral as they are. That impermanence is fine with me, though – it's the natural order of things, and the value of my photography is not in the images themselves, but rather in the creation and sharing of them, in that spark of connection with other human beings viewing my work. That, for me, is the point of any work of art – forging some connection between the artist and the work and the viewer and the world, bridging the gulf of isolation and other-ness that makes us forget we're all part of the same world.

The rocks will never notice my passing, but this is how I choose to live out the mayfly span of years allotted me.

— Jack



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2 Comments

  1. I enjoyed reading your thoughts behind this image Jack. The concept of time boggles my mind sometimes, especially in that humans are such a small, tiny part of this planet’s history. The impermanence of your hand print may signify our fading existence, not just as individuals, but as a whole species.

  2. Jack,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and this image. This photo caught my attention immediately and I was drawn in by your text. The handprint is a perfect addition to the composition and significant.

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