The Yellow Brick Road in the Wizard of Oz and the Tolkein reference to the road being like a river that flows past your door are too similar to be coincidence; the metaphor of hopping on to a twisting, seething, ever branching script of opportunity comes to my mind now as I look out the window at two paths awash with possibilities.
The window from which I look is an ordinary window, white polyurethane or some such chemical marvel; grubby, in need of a serious squirt of Mr Shine, and offers as much sound-proofing as a wet tissue placed over your ears.
But, the view it conceals behind its grime, or in crystal clarity when its obstruction is thrust aside, is extra-ordinary. Our hotel looks across a 2000m deep valley to the Meili Xue Shan Massif, a ridge of glaciated, icy, fluted, corniced mountains of such impressive spectacle that they are more than worth the two days bus journey it took us to get here.
At the bottom of this impressive canyon is one half of our yellow brick road duo – the Mekong River, whose power and majesty created this landscape; carving through the rocks over eons. And below the window, is the road to Tibet.
One thing that is becoming something of a cliché for me is to sit in places like this and look at the landscapes and cultures I am immersed in and ponder; “how did I end up here?” The answer to that is a long tale, which someday I may commit to words, but what I do want to cover in this two-part article is the similarity between my life plan and my profession as a landscape photographer.
To skip back to the metaphor to the beginning of this essay, I could walk out the door, flag down a bus and make my way to Tibet tomorrow. I could descend to the valley floor and head south down the Mekong and into forests with elephants and leeches. Or I can travel home to Lijiang and carry on with the projects that are in my sites for the next few months over the summer.
The path from I could, to I will and finally I can is often complex, but as with any job, it becomes easier with experience.
It is only now, with the beautiful gift of hindsight that I feel I can understand where I am in all this, and why I do what I do. Many of the decisions in my past may have felt very high risk, and even devastating at the time, but in my heart I think I always knew I was heading in the right direction, moving forward, not back, or heaven forbid, staying still.
And this is where the similarity between my chosen life and my profession mirror each other. The same set of skills can overlay my development and expression as an artist as they can over my personal development as a human making my way through life.
I recall as a child someone saying that life was a book to be written and we are both the author and the main character. It is we who choose whether that leading figure is to be a hero or a villain, or whether they maintain the readers interest chapter after chapter, or dwindle into some eddying cul de sac of repetition that no one wants to read, or worse still, live. The life a forgotten paperback in the attic of regret.
To finally put a full stop in the book of my life and look back and say, “that was a damned good read” has to be my ambition.
By examining some of the best practices of Landscape Photography and overlaying them to life I want to examine this connection.
In part two I will look at the development of the following in life and photography with the aim of becoming more expressive as an artist and more fulfilled in life.
Its not the barriers that define us, it’s what’s outside.