Me and Jackson: Concealing and Revealing

I’ve always been terrified to raise my hand in class. When faced with making a major presentation in my grad school Landscape Architecture class, the only thing that saved me was discussing what I was truly passionate about at that time – photography. I explored how William Henry Jackson’s early photos of the American West affected people’s perception of the largely unexplored area.

Instead of memorizing every word, my MO when doing any public speaking, I winged it. In the darkened room, Jackson’s unprecedented black and white images encouraged me to speak from the heart and include my own philosophical musings.  Risky, but my classmates and even my professor, who I adored, were enthralled.

For the first time, I experienced The Zone.  That creative zone where I glided along through the barren, sulfur-spewing western landscape, with Jackson by my side. On the fly I married passion with original ideas, his novel images supporting my maiden journey.

Why had I always been afraid to raise my hand? Because I was afraid of being misunderstood, and then ostracized. My need to be seen at a soul level – my true self – was so important that I was willing to not be noticed at all. It kept me quiet for a very long time.

My thesis of the presentation was that Jackson and his colleagues chose what images to show the folks back home:  “The West is safe” – avoid snapping the spouting geysers. “The West is adventurous!” – shift the camera a foot to the left to show the moon-like craters and steaming shoots.

We choose what we want to show the world – the safe side or the wild side. The view that’s conventionally acceptable or the truth. Jackson did both. And now so have I.

Lone Star Geyser SCBL_856

Lone Star Geyser
(From the William Henry Jackson Collection)

Crater of Old Faithful SCBL_919

Crater of Old Faithful, by William Henry Jackson.
(From the William Henry Jackson Collection)

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