Saturday, August 04, 2007

What Goes Around Comes Around, or, the Making of an Homage to Ingmar Bergman

Once in awhile, it seems appropriate to pull back the curtain a bit. Because the homage to Ingmar Bergman (bottom) that I recently posted here and uploaded to Flickr, The Trees Dance their Homage to Ingmar Bergman, is so distant from its origins (top), I thought I might fill in some of the steps.

Last December we took one of our regular trips to the Milwaukee Art Museum. After spending some time in the gorgeous Santiago Calatrava wing, I went outside to try my hand, as photographers will, at photographing one of the most photographed buildings in the United States. It's an endless challenge. It was late in the afternoon on a dark, gloomy, snowless December day -- Bergman weather, I was thinking. Winter light. The first thing that caught my eye as I walked around the building in the brisk December lake breeze, was the prow of the building jutting out toward Lake Michigan and the nearby line of barren, wintry trees.

Something about the scene definitely reminded me of Ingmar Bergman. Partly it was the light. Partly it was the stark tree silhouettes, isolated against the gloomy sky. They reminded me of trees in Bergman's "Winter Light," not so much a specific scene as a feeling. And as I looked at the trees and framed them in the LCD screen, I was also reminded of "The Seventh Seal," and its famous closing scene of the people silhouetted against the sky in their dance of death. As they tossed and swayed in the wind, the trees reminded me of those figures.

The top image is one of the photos I took that day. I don't think it really worked all that well. Was it about the trees? Or was it about the building? Hard to tell. I forgot about it. But the image of the trees continued to return to me from time to time, especially in the days after Bergman died. I started to think I had actually taken a photo like the bottom one, but when I went back to check -- no such thing. I realized if I wanted that image I would have to make it myself. Which is what I did, and if you're interested in the process, click on the visual and it will take to the Flickr page with the images and my (somewhat long-winded) explanation.

Technical matters aside, the whole experience seems to illustrate something about the underground life of images, how they haunt our dreams and imagination, and how they sometimes come back, morphing into a completely different image, with no visible, external clue to its origins.

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