Something happens every time I return to Memphis. It begins with a feeling in my bones as I am packing and heading out the door, taking those first steps south, then comes a pleasant jolt as I board the plane and find myself surrounded again by the music of southern voices. The transition is more subtle if I am driving, first a peaceful feeling as I cross the mountains, then a calm, a sense of familiarity coupled with an alertness, an awakened part of me that begins to scrutinize and examine the surfaces of things. I see photographs that need to be taken, colors juxtaposed perfectly that just need framing to find their proper order. I can’t say precisely what causes this mental shift; perhaps it is that I am headed back to the place of my birth and childhood. Memory must also inform this heightened state—a parade of loved ones gone whose images become clearer again in my mind as I get closer to home. Beyond even memory is a connection to those before my time, who no doubt played an equal part in my making, a century of forebearers whose presence is close at hand, the emotional and physical resonance of the past. I make pilgrimages to ancestral graves. I get tuned in and dedicated to looking, letting the pictures lead me along to new ideas for composition and color. Avoiding thesis, I let an internal eye do the choosing; I stay open and allow myself be drawn to places and things that move me. The pictures reveal what I am seeking, a hidden story emerging from this land of ghosts, rivers, and sky. I will travel soon to other destinations and find inspiration there too, but it is here that the basis is formed. A friend said recently that she sees a preoccupation with mortality in these new images. Perhaps it’s true.
I see joy too, a reveling in the bright beauty that surrounds me. I am glad for it, this delight in becoming present, letting the past slip away, getting lost for an instant in a sort of dance of shapes and color and light and looking. Then it’s gone, the moment fades, and the world crowds in. But the photographs remain, capturing the feeling of that experience, that light, that glimpse of an ineffable mystery. It is a mystery that keeps calling me home.