ART

PHOTOGRAPHY

PHOTO-ASSEMBLAGE -- OCEANS

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Beaches can be fickle places.  A storm at sea, a driving rain, even a single cycle of changing tide can drastically alter the character of a place.  The question slips into my mind:  If the sand has shifted, the kelp is newly strewn about or washed away, or the color of the sea moved from white, to green, to brown; is it still the same place?  Is place determined by gps coordinates, or a solid rocky headland a mile away, or a paved parking lot by the coastal highway?  I have returned to the same coves on the coast of California many times over the past ten years, and rarely does each one feel like the the place it was before.  So perhaps place is more fluid than we think, perhaps place is modulated by time, emotion, tides, seasons, and weather.  I arrived at a narrow cove in Mendocino at sunset many years ago, ran down to the shore in the fading light and was entranced by thick layers of brilliant colors of seaweeds and an octopus in a tidepool at low tide.  As night subdued the colors, I retreated to my small tent in the forest up on the hill.  Back down to the sea at dawn, and all was changed:  The tide had washed in, the octopus gone, the colors pale.  I've returned there over the years, and never found any experience of that place that compares to that first evening.

 

My photographs engage this ephemerality of place and a expanding and contracting sense of time.  A two-mile walk from headland to headland along the water's edge reveals glimpses of beauty and sorrow.  Like a beachcomber, I hunt for and engage with stones, shells, feathers, birds, crabs, seals, broken glass, and plastic trash.  All are fair game.  The finished print is a composite of the experience.  Time and place are expanded and contracted to replicate a subjective and fleeting experience.  Returning another day can never yield a similar result, yet the finished image captures a longer experience than the brief moment of most photographs.

© 2020 Matthew Chase-Daniel

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