In 1920 my grandfather’s life was saved by an Ojibwe guide in Northern Minnesota during the Babbitt Surve
He worked as a surveyor and had laid an axe into his thigh somewhere out in the bush too far from medical help. The guide filled the wound with white pine pitch, wrapped it an old shirt then told my grandfather when the shirt fell off the wound would be healed.
It healed. Consequently, my grandparents held great respect for native culture and people. And my grandmother edged my physical and spiritual sight by asking me to find the spirit lines and spirit breaks in Navajo rugs and baskets that filled her cabin. Those lines and breaks, she said, were the places where the spirits moved into and out of objects. Every summer I looked at the lines and watched for the spirits to move.
It wasn’t until I was fourteen that I visited an art museum.
The first painting I stopped to look at was a still life of a champagne glass and fruit. I thought the colors beautiful, but I couldn’t figure out how the artist painted a champagne glass so clear the fruit behind it shimmered. What really stumped me was I could not find the spirit line. And that meant, to me, one of two things. The spirit of the painting was not free or there was no spirit in art.
I spent the rest of the day looking for spirit lines in everything. And never once did I find one.
Now, years later I find myself thinking about my grandmother, those weavings and photography. One day I tell myself if I look for spirits, if they chose to reveal themselves , I’ll gladly find a place for them in my work because, according to my grandmother, all things have spirit.
So, when you ask me how I photograph or why I create an image , I start my explanation with “I collaborate with spirits.” My spirit. Your spirit. The spirit of the things I’m photographing. And the spirit of the image I’m creating.