During my career as a writing instructor, I’ve had more than one student look at me in bewilderment, hold his or her head and protest, “Mrs. Jensen, my head is exploding!” I’m starting to feel that way about my own life and this year of 2021 in particular. I have always felt guided by some benign inner spirit to my next book or conversation or online class, but lately, I don’t feel so much “guided” as dragged through the streets of lifelong learning by the hair.
In January, I suddenly found myself in the dark room learning how to shoot, develop, and print analogue pictures. I’ve never really been interested in black and white or the darkroom, but it’s like that spirit I mentioned did a program override and switched on the light of passion for me.
I didn’t even do that much; I may have put in ten or twenty hours, but from my first roll of film, I printed “Calla Valeria,” which was promptly juried into an analogue photography show at the LightBox Gallery in Astoria, Oregon.
Shortly after getting down the basics of the dark room, I had an opportunity to take a second class in making Platinum Palladiums, another old school process.
Meanwhile, I was also working on my I Dream in Gold photos. I made several which are for sale in Eugene, Oregon at the Karin Clarke Gallery at the Gordon. One of my favorites was juried into a show at Maude kerns Art Center with the theme “Be Here Now.” My piece was of autumn’s last light on autumn’s last long grasses up on Mt. Pisgah. I was pretty thrilled when it sold.
Where I fit in the world—a passing shadow between the little lights and dark river.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”
But then the Lifelong Learning Genie really took me for a ride when I was led to the online class platform called Domestika. A wonderful young teacher named Danny Bittencourt introduced me to the concept of Hybrid Photography. In this practice, the photograph itself is printed out and the print is subjected to any one of a number of modifications: it can be burned, buried, frozen, folded, spindled or mutilated according to the artist’s inner vision. It is then re-photographed and shaped into a final work of art.
I caught the Domestica online learning bug, and the next class I took was also from Danny Bittencourt, “The Fine Art Self Portrait.” All of these classes have required me to set up a studio and stretch myself technically while artistically also going places that might not be so comfortable. I took plenty of clunkers, but as is the way with the magic in this world, I was fooling around looking for ideas when I suddenly remembered a dream from 2007 and the art I drew of it. In the dream, a famous Yogi Dream Master had put a blue stone in my hand. I found the stone in my jewelry box, and here are the two photos; both touch into that Other Realm which so pulls me toward its shadows and its depths, its flickering lights in the dusk.
This has been a journey through many kinds of photography, and all of them have posed technical challenges, but as always, I am amazed and grateful at the powerful way photography serves to bring messages of presence and intent from, as Rumi puts it, “that inner world of which we know so little.”
And I am always glad to bow aside when Rumi once again appears to have the last word:
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”