Crossing Uneven Ground

Musical Images on Display at Plymouth Art Center

Photograph of strange errosial forms from Bisti Badlands, NM.
“The Dissident,” a photograph I made in the Bisti Badlands of New Mexico, is one of three images of mine included in a show at the Plymouth Art Center.

  • “Harmony and Dissonance:” A juried photography show featuring the works of CoPA, The Coalition of Photographic Artists
  • Plymouth Art Center, 520 East Mill Street, Plymouth Wisconsin, USA
  • August 11 – October 6, 2023
  • Artist Reception – August 18th | 5:00pm to 7:30pm. I’ll be there. Stop by and say “hi.”

I’ve found nature to be the best source of inspiration. The great American landscape photographer, Ansel Adams, actually trained as a concert pianist and his photographic art and methods are well known to students of photography. He considered the photographic print “a performance” as a musician would perform a piece of music for an audience. The image he captured on film (now also on digital media) was the source for his performance. It was like the musician’s score. When I’m wandering in fields and forests, badlands and deserts, I’m looking for new tunes.

When I heard about the theme for this show, “Harmony and Dissonance,” I immediately thought of an image I made in the New Mexico badlands, “The Dissident.” For me, exploring badlands is like walking in an art gallery. Every turn in this eroded environment reveals a new collection, not of art but of strange shapes crafted by natural forces. When I came upon this particular carnival of stone shapes I was captivated by the grotesque, domineering, triceratops-looking white stones. If music, this would have been a blast of low brass…I hear trombones and tubas. As I started to set up my camera I noticed the small, upright stone on the left. Here was a lonely character, set off in its isolation against the crowd of noisy boulders above it. A lone flute? “Hang in there buddy” I thought. The contrasting shapes made the image.

Another Ansel quote is, “A photograph is usually looked at, seldom looked into.”  I hope you get a chance to stop by the Plymouth Art Center to see “Harmony and Dissonance.” Rather than mentally tagging the images as “like” or “dislike,” perhaps take a moment to look into what the photographer saw and is attempting to say. Some images tell a story, some offer a view of a unique phenomena, some are purely musical.

7 thoughts on “Musical Images on Display at Plymouth Art Center

  1. Mark Maio

    Congratulations Tom. Wonderful image and great description of your process of going beyond a “typical” landscape image and creating a work of art that actually speaks to the viewer (if they are willing to listen). You and I were taught photography with Ansel’s words always in the back of our mind while making images. Just the other day I read/heard the comment that many people can read the notes on a page of sheet music but very few can hear the music. A very appropriate comment for your image.

    1. Tom Post author

      Thanks for the comment Mark. Sometimes I think I hear music when I’m looking at a landscape..not sure, but I do find the vocabulary of photography and music to be somewhat interchangeable. Keep in touch!

  2. Margo

    Wow! Thanks for the explanation Tom. At first glance I thought this was of a snow topped enbankment that had “dirty” snow on top that had been etched out by the winds. A whole new perspective. Imagine how many thousands of years it would have taken for the winds to carve those graceful shapes out.

    1. Tom Post author

      Thanks for the comment Margo. The shapes nature has created in the American West have always been an inspiration to me.

  3. Kris Roepsch

    Your eye is masterful.
    When I fist looked at this, I thought it can’t be rock. It appears soft and whipped up. And the little defiant rock sits as if slung there. Hanging on for the ages.
    Such incredible shapes. Thanks for capturing and sharing a sight I am unlikely to visit.

    1. Tom Post author

      Thanks for the comment Kris. Sadly, upon returning to the same place last year, both the imposing rock bureaucrats and the plucky dissident have crumbled, succumbing to the forces of nature. The scene is now reminiscent of Shelley’s Ozymandias and a humbling reminder that everything is temporary. Courage and carry on!

  4. Mike

    I do not know what sound(s) light makes, but I like the idea of it – maybe images are our version of extending musical rhythms for our experience – like dogs hearing things beyond the ability of my ears to hear – it is still sound – just not for me. In any case, I enjoy the working of light (contrasting the very bright with dark) and lines (with areas with obvious, stark sharpness and other areas of grey, smoothness) – I think, for me, not finding a clear spatial scale creates depth while the perched, skeletal image pulls at my sense of time, as though I’m seeing a fossil of an un-described fallen beast. Well, there you have it – “hang in there buddy” (bro) – Mike

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