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Monday, May 17, 2004


Photography as Psychotherapy

I am a very messy person. My desk at home is messy. My desk at work is messy. My clothes are messy. My life is messy.

But you wouldn't know if from my photography. My photographs are neat, clean, structured, orderly. Even when I photograph something that is inherently messy, like the abandoned house here in Hacienda Rota, I look for a way to isolate some part of the scene that's somehow ... well, non-messy.

Hacienda Rota No. 9

This "hacienda" sits right on a gritty stretch of Maryland Route 175, alone, abandoned, and out-of-place. The windows are broken, the interior is full of debris, and weeds encircle the house. In a word, it's messy.

The first time, I noticed this house, I was heading West on Route 175 in the early morning. The house is on the North side of the road, and the bright sun washed the white stucco and made the roof tiles and brick archways glow. I thought it was beautiful. One day I finally brought my camera with me and stopped long enough to take some photos.

And instead of a decrepit house, my photos show the graceful symmetry of the arches and the contrast of the smooth, glowing red brick with the textured white stucco. Boarded-up sections of the house are hidden by the design elements of the deep shadows at left and right. Instead of all the weeds, you see a gracefully bowing wheat-like blade at bottom.

This strong dichotomy between my orderly photos and my messy life didn't occur to me until this weekend. My photography is trying to tell me something. "This is what I want for myself," it says, "I'm tired of living in this mess and I want some order in my life."

It's amazing - I can go back to photos I took in 1972, and although the orderliness was not quite as developed, it was definitely there.

Structure is essential to my photos, and it's essential to my life as well. I've got a lot of work to do.

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