Spring Will Come

Spring Will Come

Spring will eventually come. Although it may not seem like it this weekend, with the record-breaking blizzard on the East Coast, warm bright days with green trees and flowers are ahead. Here in New Mexico, the winter, so far, has not been bad, although who knows what will happen over the next couple of months. The increasing daylight hours can already be seen and felt.

Persephone Spring
Spring Will Come

In the fall of 2015, when I was introduced to the Persephone myth, I’m sure that I was initially attracted to its explanation of Winter, of which I am not fond and never have been, and its promise of Spring. After all, Persephone is the Greek Goddess of Spring. When she returns to Earth from the Underworld and her obligations as wife of Hades and Queen of the Underworld, she brings with her Spring and its glorious days.

This weekend I encountered an interesting article over at Digital Photography School that talks about photographing with meaning.

There comes a point, or a plateau, as in every photographer’s career (whether you are an intermediate or professional photographer) where you hit a wall. It’s a crisis of self that you are faced with when you have reached a certain point of technical proficiency. Well, basically you hit a plateau because you already know […]

Source: How To Photograph With Meaning

To be perfectly honest, I had not consciously thought about being in the winter of a “crisis of self” in terms of photography. At some level I knew that I was at a plateau and had been for some time, but I did not have time to worry about it because of so many family life crises I had to deal with in the past year and a half. I try to photograph something every day to keep up my skills, and almost every day I learn something new about photography. But, I did not sit down and plan to do something different; I did not think I had time to fit thinking about something like that into my life at the moment.

I’m not really certain exactly how a casual mention of the Persephone myth in an email from friend Jim Stallings set off the photography frenzy that followed, but it did. Within two weeks I had done a short series inspired by it, using my well known subjects of sunflowers and butterflies. Once that was done, however, I began to think of a series involving a model to tell a portion of the Persephone myth. Although I had worked with a model on someone else’s project in the past, and although at one time I did maternity portraiture, I had never hired a model I chose for a conceptual project. I wasn’t even sure how to go about it. But almost, as if by magic, the perfect model appeared. I shocked myself by walking up and asking her if she would be a photographer’s model and, almost as surprisingly, she agreed.

With Persephone, Greek Goddess of Spring and Queen of the Underworld as both a starting point and inspiration, this conceptual photographic series also became an exploration of the meaning of being female with both body and mind. What began as a small personal project for this photographer also became a search for meaning of self, reflecting back on life as a woman, anthropologist, and obstetrician-gynecologist. I didn’t consciously set out “to photograph with meaning,” but it is a series that came to have a lot of meaning to me personally, whether it does to anyone else or not. In the first month of 2016, I surprised myself again by publishing a small Kindle Book. (That added another surprise. While poking around on Amazon, I found a copy of a book, Anthropologists at Home in North America, in which I had published one of my early anthropology papers [1981]. That was a bit of shock, and definitely a pleasant reminder.)

I feel like a new spring has arrived for me in my work as a photographer. Today, I cannot say where things will go from here. Kelly Angerosa, my model for Persephone, and I will work together in the spring. I’m looking forward to that next adventure!

Persephone and Her Choice Now at Amazon

This entry is part 8 of 10 in the series Persephone's Choice

Persephone’s Choice: Every Woman’s Dilemma is now available as a Kindle ebook at Amazon

Click on the image below for a free preview:

Those of you who are regular readers here have seen this work from the time it was barely an idea, now up to its presentation as a Kindle ebook.It is important to note that you do not have to have a Kindle to be able to view the book. Amazon offers free Kindle apps for desktops (PC and Mac), laptops, tablets, and smartphones (iOS and Android). In fact, since this ebook features images in color, I can view it better with an app on any of my devices other than my Kindle Paperwhite, which shows the images in black and white.

If you have followed the Persephone series as it developed here, you have already seen most of twelve images that are featured in the ebook. New text has been added: a discussion of myth, meaning, and various approaches to interpretation; a look at the mind-body dichotomy in human society; and some autobiographical references. From the Preface:

Persephone, Goddess of Spring and Queen of the Underworld in Greek mythology, became a truly fascinating mythological figure to me in 2015. I became determined, almost obsessed, as a photographer, to interpret a portion of her story. A complex myth, the part that initially captured my imagination involved Persephone’s cyclic descent into the Underworld and return to Earth each Spring.

Now that this small portion of the story is completed as a photographic series, I realize I was so driven to do the work because it presented an unexpected opportunity for me to synthesize much of my adult life – as a woman, as an anthropologist (PhD University of Arizona), as an obstetrician and gynecologist (MD University of Kansas, residency training University of New Mexico), and photographer (University of New Mexico).

As I worked with the images from what was intended to be a simple photoshoot, I began to realize that in many ways I was telling a story of an archetypal Woman, through one woman’s learning what it is to be female, in both body and mind. This is not a story about a woman learning to accept society’s or other’s definitions, but rather it is about a woman defining herself to herself, in her many complexities. Twelve images from the series are presented in this volume.

Myth, “the repository of the collective unconscious” – I learned to say that as an anthropologist. I learned what it meant as a photographic artist well into my mature years.

It is fitting that the portion of the myth involving Persephone’s cyclic descent into the Underworld and return to Earth, bringing Spring with her, consumed so much of my time during fall and winter. I first became aware of the myth on September 15 in casual email correspondence with friend Jim Stallings. By the end of September I had submitted for jurying three images inspired by the myth, using subjects well known to me: sunflowers and butterflies. All three were juried into 2015 ANMPAS (Annual New Mexico Photographic Art Show) and shown there in December:

I spent much of October photographing beautiful split pomegranates from my mother’s dwarf tree. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with all of those images; I just knew I had to photograph them.

By the end of October I began thinking of doing a series with a model. As a photographer, at one time I had done maternity portraits. And, once I had worked with someone else’s model on that person’s project. But, I myself had never chosen and hired a model. I really had no idea how I was going to do that. But, on October 30, the perfect person just sort of appeared. The following day I surprised myself by walking up and asking her if she had ever been a photographer’s model or if she would ever consider being a photographer’s model. Almost as much to my surprise, she said that although she had not done that before, she would be willing to do it.

Kelly Angerosa and I did the photoshoot on November 12, 2015. I spent the next two months consumed with processing the images to say exactly what I wanted them to say, getting the images out for review, and then writing this explanation and meaning of the project as a Kindle ebook.

While there is still some work to do on this series, it seems fitting that, while we will still have some very wintry, cold, windy days, the lengthening light with its hope of spring can be both seen and felt. Work is winding down on this series as spring approaches. Thoughts are turning to a new photoshoot with Kelly and a new emphasis in the spring.

I hope you’ll take the time to click on the Preview (above) and consider sharing your thoughts. To those of you who have been through this saga with me, Thank You!

Persephone’s Choice: A Slideshow of Selected Images

This entry is part 7 of 10 in the series Persephone's Choice

Persephone’s Choice

Ten images from the Persephone series. I hope you enjoy them.

Image List:

    1. No Matter Which, I’ll Be Blamed
    2. Power and Symbolism of the Pomegranate
    3. My Fate, By Choice
    4. Fire of Passion
    5. Persephone, Queen of the Underworld
    6. Turn, Turn, Turn
    7. By My Choice
    8. I Need Knowledge, Too
    9. Why Must I Choose?
    10. I Choose Both, Free as a Bird!

Persephone, in this series, represents an archetypal Woman resolving the Mind-Body dichotomy dilemma of human females, for herself and not as defined by Society. The dilemma is part of a collective unconscious expressed in many myths, and this series incorporates images from a variety of myths. Here, the pomegranate is symbolic for the feminine body and sexuality, while the apple, from the story of Eve and the Tree of Knowledge, is symbolic for the mind and feminine wisdom.

Humans have a unique division of labor by sex not found among other mammals. Although details vary cross-culturally, Society’s and societies’ definitions of Woman tend to keep them subservient, defining appropriate behavior for both the mind and body of women. In myth, women are often seen as the root cause of so much human misery. Persephone is at least partially blamed for Winter, because she ate the pomegranate seeds, requiring her return to the Underworld for part of the year (does anyone ever blame Hades or Zeus? No. Demeter, the mother, is given part of the blame, but never the guys who really caused the problem!). Eve, with the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, is blamed for getting us all kicked out of Paradise, the Garden of Eden. The Mind-Body dichotomy, and its control in and by human society, has been a dilemma for women for ages. This series explores an archetypal Woman’s resolution of the dilemma for herself.

This series has special meaning to me for many reasons. One is that the images as composited contain so much of my world in Albuquerque: the split pomegranates I photographed for days in the fall; sunset over the Sandias; the many birds, all of which I love for one reason or another; the Blood Red Total Lunar Eclipse of September 27, 2015, a perfect day for viewing and photographing, and an event unlike any other I am likely to see again.

Model Kelly Angerosa and I have plans for new work in the spring, and I am looking forward to a new adventure. But I wanted to share in a slightly different way the images from what became a grand adventure in so many ways this past fall.