Everyone reacts to a life threatening event in his or her own way: some get a divorce or separate from a significant other, some change careers, some move, some become quite active in advocating for their particular threat though some organization, or they might even start one, some travel to places they have always wanted to visit, some come to the realization that their lives are fine the way they are, and some do nothing. Early on, after my diagnosis, I read that the people who reevaluate their lives and then change them accordingly tend to fare better than those who maintain the status quo. Further, those who sit at home because they feel they are going to die, fare worse than those who go out and do or buy something they have always wanted. Based on this advice, I ran right out and bought a bunch of new shirts. But really, what in my life did I want to change? I am happily married, l like my home, I am not the advocating kind, and my wife and I have always traveled when we could.
After a few years of angst over this issue, I felt I was ready not to change my life, but to tinker with it. As another cancer survivor said to me: “none of us knows how long we are going to be on this earth, so however long that may be, why not make the most of it.”
I felt I had to try something completely new and challenging, by changing the direction of my photography. It was at this time that I “found” multi-image panoramas, a digital process different from and antithetical to my ideas about the frame. This new technique involves shooting numerous overlapping images of a scene, then laboriously stitching them together so that the junctures between the images are seamless. As I began to use this technique, I noticed that people would appear as many as 3 or 4 times in the panoramas due to their walking through the scene as I was shooting the overlapping images. This gives a new sense of time, flattening past, present and future into a two dimensional plane.
I decided to travel to Israel with this new understanding of conflicting notions of time, of putting past and present into the same image. Israel is inspiring. The blend of cultures is exciting. The vistas are remarkable. The colors and the light are unlike any other place. Since a photograph has always to be a visualization of the past, as that scene was when it was present, what does it mean to have more than one “present” in the same image? In Israel, the trees, rocks, buildings, and even shadows bear witness to history. These panoramas, by combining the same people as they were photographed at several different points in time on this eternal landscape, conveys that sense of past and present together, in a timeless environment.
I began this process by attempting to find a new “place” for myself as a photographer. I found that place by standing still and having time move around me.
The Norwegian poet, Olav Hauge, said it best:
Today I saw
and one old.
I have a lot of faith in the new moon.
But it is probably just the old.
All photos courtesy of the Pucker Gallery, Boston.
Golan Wildflowers, archival inkjet print, 2011, 12 x 36″
Western Wall Plaza at night, Jerusalem, archival inkjet print, 2010, 9 3/4 x 40″
The Old City Market (on the road to the Wall), archival inkjet print, 2010, 7 3/4 x 48″
Western Wall Plaza in Daytime, Jerusalem, archival inkjet print, 2010, 9 3/4 X 40″