Rebecca Wilks

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Up-view, Double Arch, Arches National Park
I’m just back from the Moab Photo Symposium.  I’d been through Moab Utah for one night a few years ago, shot two icons (Turret Arch and Landscape Arch), and moved along.  

The theme of this small (maybe 75 attendees) event was “Personalize the Landscape.”  At least that’s what I think I heard that mentioned a few times; I can’t find it on the website or in any of the pre-event emails.  It wouldn’t be like event organizer and my new friend Bruce Hucko to push his own agenda over-hard.  Bruce creates a playful, fun tone which really sets this event apart.  But, I digress; the point is to try not to shoot what everyone else is shooting.

Guy Tal is perhaps emblematic of the personalization theme.  I’m especially fascinated by his scholarly research on “visual language,” the use of color, composition, and form to convey emotion in art.  I loved his portrayal of photographers who over-saturate as toddlers who don’t yet have the lexicon to express themselves and instead scream with the vocabulary they have.  Guy avoids those locations which are variously called postcard, iconic, or calendar shots and advocates for a depth of connection to a small number of places.  I think I also heard him say that he doesn’t shoot sunrises and sunsets.  

Colleen Miniuk-Sperry told the story of the evolution of her work.  About her period of photographing icons at dawn and dusk, she said she became “bored out of my mind.”

Hunter Creek Reflections
Deborah Hughes interweaves her largely abstract photography with stories and poetry which transform the combination into something much bigger that the sum of its parts.  I suspect I was not the only one tempted to skip her morning presentation, hearing the voice of the internalized third grader saying, “not poetry.  Eeewwww.”  Quoting Billy Collins, she suggested that we “walk inside the poem’s room and feel the wall for a light switch.” As she concluded, Deborah was greeted with a warm, surprised enthusiasm from the whole group.  I’m so glad I went.  

This was Jerry Dodrill’s first year presenting at Moab.  I’ve written before about what a huge inspiration Jerry has been to me both photographically and personally.  He told an intensely personal, difficult story to the group in the context of telling personal stories.  I was moved by his courage.

Telephoto Detail, Dead Horse Point State Park
As for me, I decided to embrace the personalization theme and avoid the cliché shots, at least for the most part.  Avoiding Mesa Arch at sunrise, I used telephoto to carve out sections of the grand landscape and used very wide angles to convey the grandeur of rock formation with an up-view.  I kept my eyes open for twists of the light which moved me, like the reflection of afternoon cliff light in Hunter Creek.

False Kiva
There was one iconic place that my spidey sense told me I needed to go to.  Once obscure, False Kiva has been popularized by photographers and now has a fairly well-marked approach trail, though it doesn’t appear on park maps.  Still, I had a contemplative hour alone there on Earth Day, sitting in an alcove high above the canyon and watching raven acrobatics in the gale-force wind.  Apparently there’s some controversy about the age of the ruins there.  They may be Ancient Puebloan, I’m told, but also may have been built in this century.  I have reached out to experts and I’ll update this as I learn more.

I tackled the long drive home with gratitude for new ideas and friendships.

Maybe I’ll see you in Moab next year, May 4-7 2017.

The rest of my favorite images from the week are in the Utah Gallery on the website.

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