Rebecca Wilks

Rebecca Wilks; Photographer, Teacher, Yarnellian, Do-Gooder

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Abandoned Shoes

Yeah, I like shoes for the usual frivolous reasons, but there’s something more going on here.

I’ve got an ongoing series of photographs of abandoned shoes.  Each pair (or single shoe) has a story, and as often as not that story is opaque.  These bits of someone’s life, complete with wear unique to the former owner, fascinate me.

It all started on a trip to Balboa Park in San Diego to photograph the Organ Pavilion in morning light.  Someone had abandoned a pair of well-worn pink ballet pointe shoes.  Was she drunk-dancing and wearing out an old pair?  Did she forget them or leave them for dead? Did her sister steal and hide them out of jealousy?  Were they left there for luck?

Do you see what I mean?

After I shot the dance shoes, it started to come together as a series, and I never missed an opportunity to shoot them when I found them.  My arbitrary rules; they had to be found, and I could “pose” them to better reflect the environment, but could not change the context significantly.

One of my favorites was a pair of Tahoe-blue Vans left on the Lake Tahoe shore.  They seemed to be waiting for their owner to return from a swim or longing to be in the lake themselves.

Then there were the work boots propped one-on-another along an irrigation canal in Glendale.  They looked like they had many miles left on them.  The ground was rough – I couldn’t imagine someone walking away barefoot.  Maybe he had an argument with his buddy angling for catfish after work and forgot his work boots as he drove home in his flip flops.

This single shoe, nearly new, was abandoned on the Big Sur coast.  I wonder if she took her shoes off for a swim and left them too close to the water – perhaps the other got washed away.

For the rest, you’ll have to wait until I publish the book.  JK. 

Monday, July 3, 2017


Feather Reversal

It’s been, well, summer in the Arizona desert.  Escape from the heat is always part of the strategy (see last week’s North Rim post), but sometimes I need a photo project closer to home.

I’m retired from the practice of medicine for a month now, and have a little more time to rattle around with ideas and see what pops out.

Please don’t raise your expectations too much; these two projects are experiments, and certainly works in progress.

Stacked Business Cards; a "study"
I got new business cards (bear with me, this is a relevant thought) and the old ones, with images on one side, seemed like they should be good for something.  I started stacking them together like Tetris blocks and became intrigued.  Inspiration often does come from a chance observation.

Disney Concert Hall Reversal
Photoshop proved better at pursuing this inspiration than shuffling cards, as I could flip and otherwise manipulate the images.  Perhaps I was inspired by all the talk of abstracts at the Moab Photo symposium.  Regardless, the opportunity to create abstract images from literal, or move an already abstract image further out into the metaphoric weeds appealed. I call them "Reversals."

Caterpillar Equipment Yard Reversal
The second ongoing project grew from some paintings I saw in a gallery, perhaps a decade ago.  The idea must have been rattling around in my brain for some time, but it popped up again recently.  

Death Valley Colorblock
I’ve been calling it colorblocking, and of course I’ve moved pretty far afield from the original inspiration.

Acadia Raven Colorblock
These images are likely of no use at all.  The other danger here is in going public with examples of projects which are yet half- (quarter-?) baked.  Perhaps you’ll join me in laughing at them as I refine the process.  Perhaps you’re laughing now?  No matter.  I’m grateful that you took a look.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Other Solstice

Mount Hayden Sunrise
Perhaps if I was skilled at meditation; the kind that’s done sitting in silence, I wouldn’t feel the urge to travel.  I think traveling solo to wild areas is my meditation.  It’s a tool, I’d say.

The weather was unusually hot at the North Rim Grand Canyon last week, nudging into the upper 90s in several places as the high country awaited the arrival of monsoon.  Morning and evening were great for shooting, and one night photographing stars was quite comfortable.  But when to sleep?  Usually I make up for the short summer nights by napping, but that’s tough to do in those temps, even in the shade.

So, I lounged in my hammock and read three entire books, made notes for blog posts, and waxed silently philosophical.  Except for my incessant whining about the temperatures, the trip was just what I needed.

Lupines at the edge of Transept Canyon
I have two very hospitable friends who live in the park.  I was grateful to be the guest of each of them for a night, and to plug the camper in and shower.  My solar panels are not terribly efficient in that kind of heat, you see, and the fridge becomes electricity-ravenous.  I also appreciate the opportunity to balance alone time with some substantial conversation about transition, writing, and other things that are real.

Early and late light are beautiful behind their homes, on the edge of Transept Canyon.

One of the hammock books was Alan Cohen’s A Course in Miracles Made Easy.  He summarizes by saying that every decision is made, simply, between love and fear, and that only love is real.  Hence my theme for last week, the real.

Wind-Pruned Tree & Crescent Moon, Marble View Point
I watched the merciful little cooling storm blow through while at Marble View, one of the windiest places in the North Kaibab Forest.  I knew enough to tuck the camper into the trees that afternoon. Protected from the worst of the wind, I watched the spectacular after-light.

Raindrops on aspen leaf, Kaibab Forest
The next morning, I wandered through the forest marveling at the little rain-beads on downed aspen leaves.

Benchmark at sunrise, Cape Final
Sitting in the little single campsite at Cape Final (one backpacking permit per night), life was reduced to basic sensory input; the sound of raven wings on the wind, smells of the blooming Cliff Rose, and feel of the rough limestone under my back as I tried to get comfortable.  This, I think, is my brand of meditation.

More from this trip are in the Summer 2017 Gallery on the website.