I have just spent a final ten days photographing on Ossabaw Island.
This last visit brought to conclusion a year and a half of work
on one of Georgia's most primitive islands.
What started out as weekend visits to the island early last year
with my friend Alan Campbell, a painter from Athens, Georgia, evolved
into a project of mutual inspiration as each trip to the island
revealed new insights and discoveries.
For me, it was the first time in my career that I have ever worked
on a project with another artist. I have always gone alone into
my different areas of work, be it landscape or portraiture. The
project on Ossabaw was a revelation as Alan and I would most often
go our own separate ways, but the mutual excitement we felt for
this magical place fed our respective creative juices. The experience
of being on this island and working with another artist became richer
and more rewarding than I would have ever imagined.
It was also refreshing to remember the need and necessity of what
I would call pure photographic time. From before dawn each day and
into the falling darkness that night, I would be in pursuit of images.
No phones ringing at the studio, children's carpools, grocery shopping,
impending bills that needed to be paid---I had left the real world
behind on the mainland and traveled by boat an hour away into another
state of being.
In planning my days around pure photographic time, I was reminded
of how rare this kind of time is. Even in the very busy life of
being a professional photographer---running a gallery, getting prints
ready for shows, several long days a week in the darkroom, being
involved with children's photography programs at two institutions
in Savannah, publication deadlines and a lecture schedule---the
concept of pure photography time often hovers in your consciousness
like a distant mist. But I had planned for months to be able to
spend these ten days in October on Ossabaw Island, and I was ready
to take advantage of this opportunity.
I would sketch in a daily shooting schedule: certain places at certain
times, at certain tides, secure my multiple cans of bug spray and
head out into this island that has been lost in time. Ossabaw Island
is more or less as it has been throughout its history: a tangle
of ancient oak trees, salt marshes, swamps, tidal creeks, rivers
and endless beaches strewn with bone yards of sun bleached trees
felled by the relentless tides.
Changes in light, changes in wind, changes in atmosphere kept transforming
the place by the hour. I would often return to the same location
throughout my stay to see something completely different and alluring.
As my mind and spirit adjusted to the rhythm of the island, my photographic
eyes responded. I was able to see ever more subtle nuances of the
island that just can't be seen until you are able to let go.
I'm off the island now, back to my real world, but I'm not the same
person. My time on Ossabaw has renewed me, both as a photographer
and as a human being.