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All Seeing I

April 24, 2009

I have always been a slave to the image. My earliest memories are not of birthday parties or my father’s voice or family pets or motherly hugs, though those are of course vivid and treasured ones.

They are of a stone lion guarding the pond in our back garden, a pale mossy green discolouring the faded white under his neck. They are of the little oasis of dirt that separated the back stairs from the lawn, where constant foot traffic meant that no grass would grow. They are the sequence of trees and buildings seen scrolling across the car window as I lay on the back seat looking upwards, navigating by these familiar visual clues until the reel stopped with the rough red brick wall that meant we were home.

I will devour movies that contain striking imagery, even if the plot, acting and dialogue are excruciatingly poor. I have favourite cinematographers as others have favourite actors. Angles, curves, textures, shades, they are the language I think mostly in, when my mind is quiet.

So I’m starting a new category in this blog, dedicated to images that catch my eye. I’m careful to not make it an ‘art’ section, as there are so many visually interesting things that may not fall under the official umbrella of ‘Art’ with a capital A, but which nonetheless astound, move, inspire and change me like the best art does.

I’m calling this new category ‘Visual Nutrition’ as I feel that a steady stream of memorable images sustains me like a diet of healthy food makes you feel revitalized and strong.

Pyramid Scheme

Pyramid Scheme

I’m starting off with the work of Celine Chamberlin. The above image, taken by her is titled ‘Pyramid Scheme’ and is of the window of the Ixtapa Mexican Restaurant, on Locust Ave, in Stayton, Oregon.

What intrigues me about her photo blog isn’t just the variety of magnificent images, but the idea behind them. As the name suggests, every day, she posts a photo she has taken of her home town Stayton, Oregon.


Celine Chamberlin


(a special thanks to Celine for permission to use her photos)

Browsing through the blog, it immediately made me think that it would be great to have at my disposal a bank of all the images that comprised the places where I grew up. Even mundane things like the manhole cover that I used as a marker of where to cross the street on my daily walk to school, though probably not very interesting to others, would represent a significant part of my life, and would bring back a host of other memories/images, acting as a kind of remembering gunpowder.

I love how other-wordly ‘Pyramid Scheme’ looks. Emerging out of the night, the contrast between the friendly, garish neon ‘OPEN’ sign hanging over a dark, ominous opening. Can’t you just imagine some Mexican music and the clinking of glasses emanating from within that gap, and the livelier and festive the noises, the  spookier it would sound? This would be such a great opening shot for a horror film. Those purple shadows, the bright orange, the blackness – perfect.

And then imagine driving past it during the daytime, and how different and benign it would look.

I think that a blog like Celine’s, is not only a photographic record, but a historical one. It would be wonderful to see all of these photos after fifty years, to see how Stayton had changed. How many memories must be contained in these visually captured corners of this small town, and for how many people?

'Phone' by Celine Chamberlin

‘Phone’ by Celine Chamberlin

But an image doesn’t have to be enigmatic and mysterious, strange and out of the ordinary to have the ability to arrest your attention. At the other end of the scale, I like this simple image of a payphone. Austere and stark, the image might be bare, but packs a big punch. The clinical lines of the phone box against the roughly textured wall, (don’t you just feel like running your hands over it? No? Just me then…) the solitary nature of the payphone enhanced by the monochromatic colour scheme.

I think having the phone centered would have come across as trying too hard to be arty and ‘portfolio-worthy’, but by having the phone slightly off-centre, it highlights that this isn’t a glossy magazine spread, but a visual document of a real Stayton payphone on 1st Ave.

Okay, now for the big guns…

'Canopy of Color' by Celine Chamberlin

‘Canopy of Color’ by Celine Chamberlin

If you arent’ blown away by this image, then you probably have no soul or reflection, and wander the earth as a lonely ghost. Cool grass under an inferno of yellow and orange leaves. Overpowered by that magnificent canopy, it takes a while to even notice the beautiful white bridge in the background.

So there you have it; the strange, the mundane and the beautiful, each an absorbing image, and all from the same town. Of course, you don’t have to live in an idyllic small town to be blessed with amazing eye candy, you just have to look around you a little harder, or even just look at all.

Or to put it in a far more poetic way, it’s hard to forget the words of a character Richard Burton played in a film, when he said:  “worship all that you see, and more will appear.”

viva minutiae,



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