De revolutionibus

Last February 15th was the 450 aniversary of the bird of Galileo Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642). As everbody knows Galileo was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer and philospher. In other words, he was a Renaissance scientist who played a major role in the scientific revolution. Galileo’s championing of heliocentrism was controversial within his lifetime; he was investigated by the Roman Inquisition, which concluded that heliocentrism was false and contrary to scripture, placing works advocating the Copernican system on the index of banned books and forbidding Galileo from advocating heliocentrism. He was tried by the Holy Office, then found “vehemently suspect of heresy”, was forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. His achievements include improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations and support for Copernicanism.

Nicolaus Copernicus (19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543) was also a Renaissance mathematician and astronomer who formulated Heliocentrism, a scientific model of the universe which placed the Sun, rather than the Earth, at the center. The publication of Copernicus’ book, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), just before his death in 1543, is considered a major event in the history of science. It began the “Copernican Revolution” that resolved the issue of planetary retrograde motion by arguing that such motion was only perceived and apparent, rather than real…

The solar system has the Sun in its center with all the planets spining in eliptical orbits around it. The Earth’s orbit is the motion of the Earth around the Sun, from an average distance of 149.59787 million kilometers away. A complete orbit of the Earth around the Sun occurs every 365.2563666 mean solar days (1 sidereal year). This motion gives an apparent movement of the Sun with respect to the stars at a rate of about 1°/day eastward, as seen from Earth. On average it takes 24 hours—a solar day—for Earth to complete a full rotation about its axis relative to the Sun so that the Sun returns to the meridian. The orbital speed of the Earth around the Sun averages about 30 km/s (108,000 km/h). Assuming Earth’s orbit around the sun to be circular, the “journey” of the Earth in one year is roughly 940 million kilometers (585 million miles).

Some years ago I read the book “The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe.” by Arthur Koestler, an interesting informative approach to the history of Astronomy. In the book, the author stated that the highly technical “De Revolutionibus” was ignored by 16th-century readers.

More recently, it came to my eyes an incredible “journey” of more than 30 years carried out by Owen Gingerich, a former Research Professor of Astronomy and of the History of Science at Harvard University, and a senior astronomer emeritus at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. He spent more than 30 years of his life hunting down every known surviving copy of Nicolaus Copernicus’s 1543 opus, “De revolutionibus” [see http://www.boston.com/news/education/higher/articles/2004/04/13/book_quest_took_him_around_the_globe/]

His journey began as “a smallish project” to prove whether Copernicus’s work was or wasn’t read. Gingerich tracked who first owned each book, deciphered notes that studious readers – including Galileo Galilei – had penned in the margins, and plotted each book’s travels to form a picture of what the scientific network of the day looked like. His exhaustive research proved beyond question that “De Revolutionibus” was, indeed, a hard book to put down.

Needless to say that I have ordered Gingerich book and I am eager to read it!

#0032EAs most of the formers contributors to this “Journey of a Photograph” when I received the parcel and look at the picture inside it, I thought of a journey in a train. The trees in that picture inspired me and, after harvesting several drink cans converted to pinhole cams to register solargraphs during a holiday trip to my homeland in Asturias (North coast of Spain) I was lucky enough as to have manage to point in the right direction.

In the solargraph you see a centenary oak covered by the sun trails from the 15th of August 2013 to the 7th of February 2014. When I opened the can I found some water inside wetting the sensible black and white paper. This is, most probably, the responsible of producing those blue spots in the bottom and the “peculiar” brownish color. After letting it dry in the dark, I scanned the image formed during those months to get (after minimum post process in PS) the image you see above.

Can you image the distance we all traverse in our lives without even noticing it? A long Journey based on “Revolutionibus”

Interlude

Interlude final

‘Interlude’

The Journey final

‘The Journey’

The intimate is not a space but a relationship between spaces.

– Beatriz Colomina

I was forced, recently, to take a break from blogging. Not really by choice, but because life burst forth in a relentless tidal wave of busyness (as it does every year at the same time), and something had to give. However, I have been continuing to make pictures, and the past few months has been a process of consolidation and gathering together of things which I have been thinking about and working on for a long time, years even. I have not made any ‘new’ pictures as such; it is the nature of photography that you can be extremely prolific when you are clicking a button (that’s the easy part), yet it’s the editing that take the time; the drawing together the threads of the narrative and the sifting through the rubble to seek out those lustrous gems. It has been more a process of looking back, reflecting, and relentless revision, which at times has been tedious and painful, but also extremely necessary and ultimately rewarding, because it has brought some clarity of thinking, and more importantly, some direction.

Many participants in the collaborative Journey of a Photograph project, which I initiated back in February of last year, have commented on the ‘layers’ which the photograph has gathered as it travels from participant to participant in far-flung corners of the globe. An enviable journey it has made so far, hopping from Ottawa to London to LA to Brussels, to name a few destinations. The description of the Winter Garden photograph, which Barthes writes of in the opening of Camera Lucida, opens the blog. With its faded sepia print and blunted corners this photograph was for Barthes a symbol of time past, and it proudly wore its scars in the way that a treasured piece of furniture might gather and wear the scrapes and knocks of everyday familial use – the ‘battle scars’ of age. But this photograph – my photograph – isn’t really old yet. Or at least the reproduction of it is not. The image itself was taken over 10 years ago when I was a different person; a different version of ‘me’.

The photograph - Jan 2014

‘The photograph’ – January 2014

I think that when people are writing about, and indeed responding to the ideas of these layers in their own work in many, many wonderfully different and creative ways (which I will save for another discussion on the blog), they are thinking about the significance that this photograph (as opposed to a photograph, a regular reproduction) – which has become more than just a photograph but a whole package (or ‘a neatly packaged risk’ – as summed up perfectly by Summer Lee) – is gathering. With each journey it becomes a bit more precious, and a bit more unique. The package itself; a patchwork of stamps and postmarks wrapped with industrial amounts of sellotape, is becoming more fragile. It is creating its own memory and its own history. However, this is not a history which is a natural cause of time passing, but a shared history forced through intervention. The photograph, and the many beautiful and thoughtful ‘things’ it has inspired and instigated and accumulated along the way on its journey; the package it has become, which binds a disparate little group of bloggers and artists and writers together, is a very public and self-conscious history. This is of course in marked contrast to the private history represented by Barthes’ Winter Garden photograph.

This project has made me look upon the role of photography and memory is a new way, crystallising many ongoing ideas I have had about photography and objects and memory; giving them form, physicality and practice. But it has also forced me to look at my own past and more specifically my past work with fresh eyes. I started the project off with an image I took when I was in my 20s studying for my MA. It was part of a series of images on the subject of what I called ‘in-between space’. In this case the ‘non-space’ of the motorway journey. It seemed to fit the theme, but I wasn’t really sure why I chose that image when I sent it off. Now I think I understand a bit better. I used to feel I had ‘moved on’ from it all, maybe even a little embarrassed at the immaturity of my earlier work, however doing this project has made me realise that it was and remains yet very much an important part of me. Even though now I wouldn’t make that work in the same way, it is still relevant. If it is still ‘me’, it is a ghost, a shadow of me which contains a small kernel of what I am now, and what I will be. The picture I chose I described as ‘nondescript’, I think, in my post. It had something in it which I thought could become something, but which wasn’t quite up to it by itself, wasn’t quite there yet, and I think that’s why I was drawn to it. I was never entirely happy with what that project became. It almost felt like it was stranded in mid-air…. It was as if I knew I needed to go back to it, and perhaps this was my way of doing that.

So, I would like to thank you all for adding your layers, each and every one, and for helping me get to where I am now. Some of you have commented on how the project has revived, or even changed your practice. Well, this is certainly the case for me. I also feel that, more significantly, within the very public and impersonal ‘in-between’ space of the internet, and over vast distances, we have succeeded in creating a shared space of intimacy represented by this little package, and of course this blog. Something which I tried to realise 10 years ago, but was unable to.

Now that life is finding its way back to a more manageable ebb and flow, I am resuming my blogging journey. The photograph too will journey on again – it is not yet ready to relinquish its voyage of discovery. It sits on my desk as I type, this neat little package. I seized the opportunity created by a lull in the project to bring it back home to me, and I’m glad that I did as it’s quite comforting to have it here, to open it and absorb for myself the little treasures and keepsakes which have been entrusted to it. I have also added my own little token to the package, and now I look forward, with renewed enthusiasm, to what the next phase of the project brings. I think, perhaps, we both just needed a bit of a break.

The images at the start of this post are from a series I have been working on over the past couple of months called ‘Horizon’.

© images and content Emily Hughes, 2014

Lost in the mist of time

I got the photo today. It was inside an envelope covered in layers of address labels, stamps and scan labels. Layers of history, not ancient but recent history, at least within the last year. A photo too is a record of history, and this particular photo made by Emily is intriguing. Every time I saw it on the blog it seemed to say the same thing, and now I have it in my hands it still says the same thing. Emily writes that she took the photo over 10 years ago whilst on a journey, and many of the writers and artists who have received the photo have interpreted that journey as a train ride. To me too it seems it was taken from a train. It is dark, ambiguous, mysterious. Those circles of light are like lost souls waiting, watching the train passing. Lost souls from the past waiting… for what? Perhaps they are a family waiting for the return of their father from the war. Perhaps they are just waiting, because that’s what happens at train stations. Now forgotten faces, always waiting, immortalized in the photo. The two hexagon shapes in the sky one light and one dark like two suns, as if suggesting life and death, creation and destruction.

This is Emily’s photo.

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I made a collage using layers of newspaper, not ancient but recent history, and over sharpened it with a photo editor.  This is  “Lost in the Mists of Time”.

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I normally work with mosaic and sometimes mosaic animation, but as I started out in collage and photomontage, it was a refreshing change to make a collage for this project! To see my blog visit katerattray.wordpress.com

My website is www.rattraymosaics.co.uk

Journey of a Photograph is a collaborative project invented by Emily Hughes.

If you would like to take part in this project you can sign up here

‘night train to sapa ’

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Good morning!

I received Emily’s photograph September 28nd 2013. Having followed her blog, from the beginning, I had often thought what would I do if I were asked to put together a piece for this collaboration.

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Emily invited me to participate and I was sent the photograph to interpret from my point of view. My first thought was, I’m looking at a full moon at night viewed from a moving train. The image reminded me of an overnight trip on a local train from Hanoi to Sapa in Northern Vietnam. I lay on a steel plank on the bottom bunk. I shared the compartment with five other people.  It was dark. Flashes of light came in through the window. Metal against metal screeched. Strange smells, sights and sounds of humans asleep came at me for what turned out to be a long nightmarish night. I kept my mind occupied by writing a poem in my head. When I returned home, I made ‘night train to sapa town’ first into a poem and then into an Artists’ Book printed on handmade paper. The poem became the basis for this project.

I started my project with a series of charcoal sketches of the night sky, which were drawn in the middle of the night.

Thinking of the train ride and Emily’s image, it’s shapes and connotations, I took some photographs.  ‘Full Moon Over the City’ and ‘Steel and Wood’ built towards my final painting,  Three paintings later, I was satisfied with ‘Good morning. Would you like a cup of tea?’ (acrylic on canvas measuring 32” x  32”) click on image to enlarge

Personal connections are happening here. Participating artists are commenting on each other’s work. One artist included a photograph; another artist added a leaf with a message written on it.  Added to this collection, was a tiny four-leaf clover from an artist in Belgium. Now, I am adding my admission ticket to Ho Chi Minh Museum in Hanoi. I carefully put back, into the original envelope, the photograph and it’s companion pieces. The photograph is ready to continue it’s journey.

If you would like to participate in the journey of this photograph take a look here.

To find out more about how this project started visit Emily’s blog.
To visit my blog go to http://carlasaunders.com/

Thank you, Emily. Your project took me to a new place in my art.  I really enjoyed the ride.

 

Bon voyage, bonne chance

Une étape sur une route que je lui souhaite longue, très longue et très riche.
Bon voyage et bonne chance !
Je perfore les couvertures de mes livres d’un trèfle à 4 feuilles. Quand je les prête, ils sont chargés d’un bon voyage, bonne lecture.

Après le moment de réception passé avec son colis magique chargé d’odeurs et de paysages, la photo d’Emily est restée à me questionner. J’ai voulu lui restituer mon paysage bruxellois, mon paysage enfantin

Merci à Emily de m’avoir permis de participer à cette aventure !

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Be faithful Go

The Photograph greeted me as a neatly packaged risk.

Unlike the poets and artists of different times and geographies whose work could bring about imprisonment or worse, my work takes very little risk. And yet art reminds me relentlessly that faith is rudiment to creation, even at the level of imaginary stakes, the mostly self-imposed type. What is at stake?

The Photograph’s owner has released this fragile art piece into several unknown hands. One of the writers who held it before me is someone I have not met in person, but whose writings I have read for over a year now, who faithfully reads my writings and offers me resonant references to literature and theory. We have a textual connection in virtual space, but the shared physicality of the Photograph closes our geographical impossibility into a more intimate interstice. As such, the more hands the Photograph passes through, the more beauty, the more meaning it seems to accumulate. An intermediary to creation and inspiration, the Photograph is becoming ever more sanctified. Far from Walter Benjamin’s mechanical reproduction whereby a photograph loses its aura, this Photograph is gathering preciousness.

The more precious it feels in my hands, the more devastating it is to imagine its loss or destruction. And still, the more artists and writers like me who create from it, the more it is open to chance, to misfortune, and easily could slip away.

I know artists must gamble on welcome, as George Steiner says. Yes, those who arrive at the boardinghouse of life may bring loss or death — “but without a gamble on welcome, no door can be opened when freedom knocks.”

These words grow truer as I move into my middle years. I have come to know deeply the amazing array of possibility spanning all colorful forms of tragedy and fortune. At the same time, life seems to have fastened to itself more attachments (my family and friends, my nest, my belongings which need more belongings) so as to stir up an existential quandary for even the most mundane of choices. What happens to my body/career/relationships if I have another child? What if a stroke of orange ruins that entire painting? What if my idea turns out wrong, if nobody understands it? The door is getting heavier, and I find myself turning into that old, lonesome woman who cracks it open just enough to turn away the unknown.

Photography I, by Summer Lee and Karen and Adam Hathaway

Tonight in my studio in San Francisco, my collaborators, Karen and Adam Hathaway and I used the Photograph to question with a hopeful openness, to ask what-if’s along an artistic exploration: What if we do this with the Photograph? What if we do that? The more possibilities we supported each other in trying, the more we stood guard over each other’s freedom.

Here are a few of our images, and a few I made myself — all taken before I send the Photograph into the next unknown pair of hands. And from there, who knows.

Journey Photograph by Summer Lee, Karen and Adam Hathaway, 2013

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(The Photograph projected into the fog over the Pacific Ocean.)

The Photograph has stood guard over me and my freedom to creatively fumble or fly. It echoes the same sentiment found in Zbigniew Herbert’s poetry, a man who knew great loss was sometimes the price of great work, that one must strive for justice and beauty even when the sacred collapses. They both utter:

Be faithful Go.

Journey Photograph, by Summer Lee 2013.

(Photograph projected over a Willa Cather quotation from a page torn out of a book on happiness.)

Zbiegniew Herbert’s full poem is here:

The Envoy of Mr. Cogito
BY ZBIGNIEW HERBERT
TRANSLATED BY BOGDANA CARPENTER AND JOHN CARPENTER

Go where those others went to the dark boundary
for the golden fleece of nothingness your last prize

go upright among those who are on their knees
among those with their backs turned and those toppled in the dust

you were saved not in order to live
you have little time you must give testimony

be courageous when the mind deceives you be courageous
in the final account only this is important

and let your helpless Anger be like the sea
whenever you hear the voice of the insulted and beaten

let your sister Scorn not leave you
for the informers executioners cowards—they will win
they will go to your funeral and with relief will throw a lump of earth
the woodborer will write your smoothed-over biography

and do not forgive truly it is not in your power
to forgive in the name of those betrayed at dawn

beware however of unnecessary pride
keep looking at your clown’s face in the mirror
repeat: I was called—weren’t there better ones than I

beware of dryness of heart love the morning spring
the bird with an unknown name the winter oak

light on a wall the splendour of the sky
they don’t need your warm breath
they are there to say: no one will console you

be vigilant—when the light on the mountains gives the sign—arise and go
as long as blood turns in the breast your dark star

repeat old incantations of humanity fables and legends
because this is how you will attain the good you will not attain
repeat great words repeat them stubbornly
like those crossing the desert who perished in the sand

and they will reward you with what they have at hand
with the whip of laughter with murder on a garbage heap

go because only in this way will you be admitted to the company of cold skulls
to the company of your ancestors: Gilgamesh Hector Roland
the defenders of the kingdom without limit and the city of ashes

Be faithful Go

Missing

Emily’s photograph arrived while I was away. I was on a road trip with my wife and son down to San Diego and back. We’d spent the better part of two weeks covering the West Coast, and the date stamped on the notice from the post office tells me her picture arrived while I was somewhere in the Sacramento Valley. As the mail carrier knocked on my door, I was likely speeding through sere grasslands toward the foothills, where our little hatchback would grumble as the elevation gained and the big rigs hauling fruit and spools of cable toward the border would groan even louder.

Or maybe we hadn’t made it that far yet. The miles, as they multiplied, also subdivided, erased in the haze of the wide, torrid valleys. For all our speed we were moving slowly, and all our distance had taken us, it seemed, nowhere. And this is just what we had needed after a few hard years, to unravel in this slowness and be washed by the land rushing past. To not be, as on a plane, exempt from the unprivileged points between beginnings and ends. Yet not entirely subject to the frictions of distance either.

The interstate we travelled for miles and days through California and Oregon passes near where we live, where Emily’s photograph has arrived on this stop of its journey. Under the overpass where the interstate crosses the ship canal there is a small homeless camp, one of countless camps under bridges and unclaimed spaces inside and around the city. Regularly, tents appear in that dark trapezoid like mushrooms that some invisible hand later culls so that one day, I see on a walk to the park with my son, they are gone—at least until they spring up again.

Missing (I)

A guy once told me on a city bus, when the buses were still free downtown, that he and his wife, who was napping beside him, wouldn’t go to the shelters anymore. He said it was better to camp out, even during the rain, and bet the police that would eventually come and kick them out would do so without hauling them to jail. “The shelters aren’t safe,” he said, “too many things happen there. And we can cook outside. We just went to the camping store and got a bunch of propane. Anything you bring to the shelter just gets taken by somebody. Outside, we at least can take our chances.”

Missing (II)

A wall can be a barrier and a shelter. I realize more and more the ways we can connect and go missing. This photograph found me, away, almost as easily as it might have found someone down the street in the building with my street number’s middle digits reversed—3621 instead of 3261, the error of a mail carrier daydreaming. But it was a hot summer’s day, we would have said, and his thoughts were climbing over a wall, taking their chances. Maybe they were and maybe we would have, having seen them before ourselves, inching upward, into the foothills of their own belief.

Missing (III)

A Journey Nowhere and Everywhere

The Photograph Arrives….

When I first heard the Journey of a Photograph concept I was keen to take part. As a  travel and humanitarian photographer I wanted to take the photograph with me on a trip  overseas and capture images of people’s reactions to the project. The photograph should be with me in Ethiopia right now. I am not there though and nor is the photograph. Instead we are both sat on my bed in the seaside town of Southend-on-Sea in Essex (UK).

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Three short weeks ago I found out that a niggling back pain is in reality a growth in my pancreas. Since that discovery all immediate travel plans have been shelved and I am becoming a familiar face at the hospital. A week ago I received an email from Richard, who guest blogged the last section of the photograph’s journey, informing me that it was my turn to take part.

At first I felt like passing on the opportunity as my plan for my section of the project was impossible to complete.  I then took time to reflect on the image and the meaning of a journey and felt that perhaps I could use this as a chance to reflect on what it means to be a traveller grounded. I am a collector of stories; I delight in sitting down with strangers and hearing their voice, their hopes, their history and their dreams. Now my own story is brought sharply into focus and instead I am looking at my own tale and praying this is not a final chapter as I am not yet ready to end the journey. I am used to using images to express myself but decided to take a hesitant step into the world of writing to respond to Emily’s photograph:

My Response…

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Dreams That Soar…

I wanted to end this post positively. I found the photograph arriving with me at a very poignant juncture in my own journey. When we are children we all travel in our play and in our dreams. I may be confined and restricted at the moment physically, but any journey that moves us deeply is about far more than the physical. I have added an image to the envelope that acts as the vessel for this project. I took the photo in Nepal last year, it shows a little boy playing with a simple paper aeroplane outside his mountain top school.  His poverty, his geography and his age do not stop him being able to soar above his circumstances with his imagination. My tumour grounds me physically but also gives me cause to offer up thanks for my life and the dreams I have already had the chance to live out. Like the small boy in Nepal I am also able to look out at the world and dream of where I will travel next.

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The Journey Goes On…

The Journey of the Photograph has only just begun. If you would like to participate in the project take a look here. If you want to know more about how the project started visit Emily’s blog. To visit my own blog take a look here.

Meanwhile…

Original photograph by Emily Hughes

Original photograph by Emily Hughes

Emily’s photograph currently resides in Beckenham (a London suburb, or a town on the fringes of Kent depending on your point of view), on our dining table. The photograph is a delicate thing and handling it makes me worry protectively at its ephemeral nature and about its onward journey, but hey it made it from Canada to here (thanks, Karen!).

It’s been both fascinating and daunting to see artworks accumulate around the project’s central image. For my own contribution I wanted to make a work that could not exist without Emily’s photograph; I deliberately set out to make an adjunct to it.

My immediate question on receiving the package was what was going on on the train when Emily took her shot. So, I got on the train to find out.

Meanwhile (inside spread), 2013

Once I started photographing people in the carriage, I realised it was their hands that would tell my story. And a book seemed like an appropriate way to go form-wise. Over several days, I took a lot of surreptitious photographs of hands. These I narrowed down to a “top ten”, which became the recto pages of the book. Aside from the title page and a basic colophon there is no text in the book. It’s constructed from inkjet card, double-sided coated paper and a couple of staples.

Here are a few of the original shots:

Page 8

Page 5

Page 10

* * *

I wonder where this photograph will travel to next. The journey hasn’t been completely mapped out yet. If you would like to participate in the project take a look here.
If you want to know more about how Journey of a Photograph started visit Emily’s blog. To visit my blog go here.

It has been a pleasure to guest edit as part of this project. Thank you very much, Emily!

Images 2-6 © Richard Guest, 2013

Whistle Stop #2

original photograph by Emily Hughes

original photograph by Emily Hughes

The journey of this photograph continues. It sits in physical form, almost pristine, on the desk in front of me as I write this. It is traveling from one set of hands to another, picking up fingerprints, bits of dust, and when it arrived to me so carefully wrapped, I found upon close inspection, that this printed photograph had picked up tiny smudges of red pigment, or wax (please read the previous post to discover how this might have happened).
Traces from the journeying.

This is precisely why the photograph is traveling. It wants a history. It wants to be handled and those little smudges are so much a part of it now.

The photograph is also meant to inspire. To become part of a visual conversation. When it arrived on my doorstep a few days before I was going on a short journey myself, I took it as a sign that the photograph was meant to travel with me. The fact that I was to travel by train seemed as old-fashioned as a printed black and white photograph.
It was meant to be.

These are the images I offer in response to Emily’s photograph. They are also about journeying. About those fast-passing moments that somehow etch themselves in our minds. Fleeting moments of fleeting seasons viewed through a train window.

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When I think about all the journeying I have done over the years, the images that flicker through my mind are often about the getting there rather than the being there. Momentary observations along the way and impressions of the places I’ve glimpsed.

The gentle rattle and hum of being. Watching the world as it awakens from winter; trees blossoming, earth greening, sun shining. Moments of bliss.

At the time of writing, I have no idea where this photograph will be traveling next. It could be to you. If you would like to participate in the journey of this photograph take a look here.
To find out more about how this project started visit Emily’s blog.
To visit my blog go here.

I am honoured to be guest posting as part of this project. Thank you, Emily!

Colour images © Karen McRae, 2013