Sometimes Standing Still is Moving Forward


In the early nineties, when Terry, my longtime assistant, printer, and friend was in the darkroom printing one of my photographs, I suddenly heard the door open and out walked Terry, print tray in hand with a huge grin on his face.

He looked at me and said “You’ve done it again.  Did you know you were doing this?”

I looked at him quizzically as I had no idea what he was talking about, walked over to him and looked at the print he was holding in the tray.

He asked me again if I noticed anything unusual about the print, and other than thinking that it looked like another magical print produced by his skilled hands, I noticed nothing unusual.  I was still trying to figure out if I even liked the picture.

Finally Terry said to me, “You do this over and over again and you’re not even aware of it.”  With that comment, he pointed to the white painted trees and showed me that they aligned perfectly with the neighboring field.

He said that in many of my photographs the relationship between people and the landscape, or objects within the landscape are in perfect harmony.  They meet or juxtapose perfectly.  Their relationship in the frame is sympathetic and exacting.  “How do you do this?”  he exclaimed.

I looked at him because Terry was one of the wisest and most observant viewers of photography I had ever known and my response was, “I simply don’t know.”

All I can say is that when I release the shutter, in a fleeting burst of emotional energy, at that brief moment everything within the frame feels right.

If it is a landscape, I have moved around until I have found the singular right spot, where intuitively I feel connected to the place.

It is not an intellectual or conceptual endeavor.  It is a primordial quest for tranquility and resolve.  Everything in my viewfinder at that moment is perfectly aligned and just at that very instant, there is a driving powerful need and desire to press the shutter and capture that fleeting moment.

It is so ironic that this primal, sexual energy that is so powerful and energetic, can release and produce something that is so peaceful, composed and elegant.

But that is my belief.  Photography is a response to the world, not a reflection of it.  It is an attempt to bring order out of chaos, understanding out of confusion, wisdom out of ignorance and lastly, beauty out of despair.  It is my attempt to help us all find the right place at the right time so we can, once again, as a culture move forward in harmony.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
    In the forests of the night,
    What immortal hand or eye
    Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

    In what distant deeps or skies
    Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
    On what wings dare he aspire?
    What the hand dare sieze the fire?

    And what shoulder, & what art.
    Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
    And when thy heart began to beat,
    What dread hand? & what dread feet?

    What the hammer? what the chain?
    In what furnace was thy brain?
    What the anvil? what dread grasp
    Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

    When the stars threw down their spears,
    And watered heaven with their tears,
    Did he smile his work to see?
    Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

    Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
    In the forests of the night,
    What immortal hand or eye
    Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

    (The Tiger by William Blake)

  2. I saw the alignment immediately, Mr. Smith. Not saying I would’ve taken the photograph as you did. But as a viewer, it is crystal clear.

    A particularly profound blog entry, by the way. One of the sign of true masters is the willingness to say, ”I don’t know.” We dwell in such a profoundly mysterious universe.

  3. The magic moment you look at the place felling fulfilled, take a deep breathe having your heart full of peace, you simply rise the camera to your eyes and feels that view is the most correct and that is the best moment. This is the grace of photography, feeling this way is lovely.
    Congrats, would love to have done this pic lol 😉

  4. This is fascinating. Sometimes I have wondered why I choose a certain spot to photograph from, and not 10 feet thataway or 20 feet to the left. It’s interesting what we see, and how we see it

  5. Just want to clarify/expand on comments I made above.

    The reason I saw the alignment immediately is because it’s a Rodney Smith photograph. If it had been taken by anyone else, I wouldn’t have been mentally prepped for the visual pun.

    In other words, I expect a Rodney Smith to have layers built into it. The more you look, the more you find. And this knowledge affects the way a Rodney Smith devotee encounters and enters the image.

  6. I also noticed the alignment, and loved it.
    Pray, satisfy my curiosity: was this picture taken in Portugal ? I have driven along a very similar road before.

  7. Dear Francisco,

    You are very close,. the picture was made in Northern Italy, I think in Umbria or Tuscany.Thank You for your interest.
    With Best Wishes
    Rodney Smith

  8. Point the finger at something, the fool will look at the finger: of course the alignment we are here at Mr Rodney Smith!!!!

    get lost in a picture, let imagination play in it, spend some time en promenade in it, it’s working because there is this alignment, our mind is suddenly alowed to come in here… and then you’ll be able to notice what makes it a great image! Great images have sometimes secrets, thank you for sharing some, BRAVO

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