Sunday, October 11, 2009
Bernhard, the Poet
"I never question what to do, it tells me what to do. The photographs make themselves with my help." Ruth Bernhard
There is no doubt her photographs of female nudes are sexy, but she never thought of them that way. Bernhard said all her work was about light and shapes, which are the poetry of an image. She said light was her paintbrush and paint. This photograph of Bernhard was taken by one of her last students, they were on their way from class back to Ruth's accomodations on Whidbey Island. The student asked Bernhard if she could take a photo, Ruth said "make it snappy." The student got out of the car and ran around to Ruth's side just in time to see her strike this pose.
"The ground we walk on, the plants and creatures, the clouds above constantly dissolving into new formations - each gift of nature possessing its own radiant energy, bound together by cosmic harmony."
Bernhard read light as if it were poetry and described the world as if she were seeing it through a viewfinder. Her reverence for nature reminds me of my favorite poet, Mary Oliver. Mary Oliver's partner was the photographer Molly Malone Cook. They worked side by side for years intertwining their two disciplines. Oliver said of Cook's photographs that they taught the beginner poet "to see, with searching attention, and compassion." I feel the same as I read about Bernhard, I am taking a fresh look at photographs I've seen before.