The words behind the image

The morning light distils the cold air into something sweet and fresh. The layers of the hills are a patchwork of muted colours and texture at this time, as the sun, far to the north, illuminates them in turn, and the patterns on their faces emerge gradually into the light.

There is, as always in this land, a mix of nature close alongside that which is made and managed by humans. The textures of pasture and corrugated tin, of fence post and gumtree, of river water and bridge, complement and highlight one another on this land. It is land I know well, though not so well as the kelpie knows it, with her finely tuned senses and her quick feet.

On a winter’s morning in June, with the three young kelpies and the old border collie cross following me everywhere I went, I did not know that it was the dog in this photo that would end up with me. I thought – hoped – that she might, but we were all in limbo then, nothing certain.

Now we are far away, the dog and I, but I think often of that morning. A roll of slide film, brisk mountain air, trying to capture a ghost of the landscape while I still could. At the homestead, away to the left, smoke rose from the chimney.

But it was the last days, and the dogs knew it. On a day like today, the sun and cloud will be playing patterns with the wind on the water of the trough, undisturbed by us.

* * *

Perhaps a good photograph should stand alone, capable of telling a story without the need for words to explain it. But I am a writer first and foremost, from long before the days when I started to think in terms of images in a camera.

So for me part of the attraction of photography is the opportunity it presents for an interplay with words.

In previous years at Unsensored I have sought to explain or enhance my images to some extent with words. Not to explain in terms of where, why, how, but to suggest my own thoughts in relation to the image; to give a hint of what it meant to me.

This year, however, the image I exhibited bore no neat, four line explanation. I tried, covering pages with notes and images as I tried to pull out the words that would say enough, but not too much.

But I couldn’t do it – I could not condense what this photograph meant to me into just a few lines. I still can’t, but now, in the aftermath of the exhibition, with the photo on my wall and the dog outside my window in the sun, a blog gives more space than an image card could, so that I might try and say just a little of what it means.

Image: Olympus OM-1N, Fuji Sensia 200, expired. Click to view large.

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