As a photographic artist (as opposed to a photojournalist), I don’t often manipulate the scenes in front of my camera. Sure, I will move the occasional offensive stick or gum wrapper, or brush aside an errant tree branch (without breaking it!), but I want to show the world as I experience it, so I try and keep such alterations to a minimum.
However, my latest project, tentatively entitled “Trash Lands” is different for me. It’s a more purposeful series of images, and what I am witnessing does not always translate into a compelling or meaningful visual message. So I have, on a small handful of images, manipulated the scene. I created a new reality, but a reality based on what I was actually witnessing.
For instance, during one of my first outings with this project, I found a cigarette butt and a crayfish claw lying mere inches from each other. Sort of interesting, but not overly compelling. So, feeling dissatisfied with the photographic results, I did something new, at least for me, and placed the cigarette butt in the claw (see previous blog post). The resulting image was, IMHO, quite powerful in its juxtaposition of natural and man-made discards. It meant something, and I was happy . . .
. . . until Friday.
On Friday, while revisiting a site I had photographed earlier, I came across a bizarre scene. A discarded child’s plastic playhouse on a hillside, surrounded by bleached deer and pronghorn bones (lazily supplied by hunters), with a doll’s head propped up in one of the windows. It was surreal, and may have even impressed the likes of Tim Burton. Of course it wasn’t a scene of happenstance—two kids were using the doll’s head for BB gun practice and generously let me interrupt. But it was a scene as I “found” it. Unfortunately, as I have already admitted contriving other scenes, this one is now suspect. And, for a while, I was worried. But, does it matter? No, not really. Not in the bigger picture, anyway. I am trying something new, taking a chance, and hoping to grow, which is all that really matters.