change in direction but not really

Over the past handful of years I have been making photographs at a variety of natural sites ––– lakes, ponds, rivers, shorelines, islands and suburbia, woods &c. I have always felt a need to photograph these places, to give these places some sort of voice. It has been part of the reason I make photographs, to learn from people, to make character portraits of people and sites. As someone who makes “HABS” photographs, these are like I am performing “last rites” to a place that is in either such disrepair it is a shadow of its former self, or a place that is morphing into another place. The former self will soon be forgotten. Streetscapes, portraits of people, photographs of buildings, the water, the shoreline, everything around us. We all have flawed memories and without a photograph, or some sort of indexical record the former is often embellished, romanticized, lost, and vanished. I’m not suggesting photographs are memories or a camera ( or no camera at all ) is able to do more than just record the light in some sort of way to either give us some sort of idea of what might have been in front of the camera (whether or not we “remember” it that way) .. it’s just a glimpse.

I’ve been going out in a canoe to local ponds, lakes and streams for years and I’ve seen these places change dramatically after just a few short months. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention but pollen and weeds now choke these places. I’d like to think it is just the way it is every year but I think now it’s a little different because the natural world is being told fight or flight, but it really has no where to go. Trees move slowly, weeds move slowly, they go where the wind, the water currents takes them. It’s fight and flight … making more pollen, more seeds more weeds. It’s a slow process that might take hundreds of years, and by that time it will be too late.

The fertilizers most suburban homes use that run off into these natural places doesn’t help. Some is advertised as “environmentally friendly” not so much when it runs off into a pond and causes an algae bloom. Outboard motor pollution that makes a shoreline full of sea foam washing up on the shores, trash dumped on shorelines, in the woods, thrown out the window onto the street and never ending recycling doesn’t seem to help much either…

Lately I haven’t seen so much pollen, there was a layer of it so dense and thick on a local “residential pond” I go to it had clogged the drainage system. I paddled through it several times and my path through it was covered up within minutes.


pollen on pond


pollen detail

I’ve started not only working at these places to make photographs but gravures and polymer plates. I’m slowly giving voice to these places that are slowly changing before my eyes. I make photographs from the seaweeds, the pollen, trash and debris that’s all around me. The light is the only constant in the equation, but even that is changing because of the pollen and pollution in the air.

Author: jnanian

I am a Freelance Photographer in Rhode Island. I make photographs using a variety of methods with and without a camera, and I teach photography online and in person. I make photo emulsions from scratch, I coat my own photo paper and make cyanotypes too. I am a huge fan of Caffenol ( I helped write the Caffenol Cookbook ) and instead of instant coffee, I roast my own Sumatra Robusta beans. I sell them so you can make your own long lasting, film and print developer called Sumatranol. I also sell silver recovery products.