Stones and Stars

Stones and Stars Exhibit
Stones and Stars, an exhibit featuring photographs I’ve made at the Alabama Hills and Joshua Tree NP will open Memorial Day Holiday Weekend at the Marty Knapp Photo Gallery. There will be an Opening Reception and an Artist Talk. The dates and times will be announced soon. Please watch your email for more details about this upcoming show. The photographs to be exhibited were made over the last twenty years, but the inspiration for these compositions began when I was a child.

My fascination with large stones began as a boy of five years old when my family moved into a house on Old Quarry Road in Guilford, Connecticut. The street was aptly named. The remains of an abandoned granite quarry—massive slabs of stone– were scattered near my childhood home.  Early on, I had developed an affection for stones. I spent countless hours clambering around the giant granite slabs and the cliffs of the nearby abandoned quarry.

My small back yard ended abruptly at two mammoth boulders which reminded me of a giant terrapin. My sister and I called this rock formation, Turtle Rock. I climbed to the top of these stones where I found a vein of quartz crystal. With my father’s hammer I chipped off pieces of the brilliant quartz, and called these treasures my “silver.”

A wooded hill rose above Turtle Rock. A short hike brought us to a clearing where another massive stone lay flat among the wild blueberry plants. It was warm in the sun and we and our neighborhood friends met there to sit and play upon it. We called this gathering place Table Rock. I remember well the warmth of these large stones and the happiness I felt when I was near and on them.

Megalithic Sites

Years later, as a young photographer I took an interest in megalithic sites and read about the mysteries surrounding these places. Places like Stonehenge and Avebury fueled my imagination. As I began photographing the landscape I wondered about some of the large stones I discovered in my wanderings. Could some of these sites be more than mere geological accidents, perhaps overlooked megalithic sites? In particular, I wondered if some of these local stones were set by humans to mark the seasons, the position of celestial spheres.

I heard stories about the rocks near the Nicasio lake, supposedly early native sacred sites. A stone circle up on the Bolinas Ridge, and a mysterious wall crossing Pierce Point also were rumored to have ancient origins. I visited all these stone sites and wondered about their genesis as I photographed them.

My friend, photographer Jan Watson, noticed my fascination with local stones and suggested I try photographing in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, California. The Alabama Hills, BLM land east of the rugged Sierra, is a rock lover’s paradise.
The boulder-strewn landscape promised dramatic vistas of the precipitous eastern Sierra range.

First view of the Alabama Hills
On a cold moonless November night in 2000, my friend Tom Morse drove us into the Alabama Hills. It was my first time there and it was so dark, I had no idea what awaited me with first light of morning. We set up the motorhome and settled in for the night. The next morning as sunlight spilled into the landscape, I hurriedly bundled up, grabbed my tripod and view camera and ventured out into the landscape. Just a few yards from the RV, I made my first photograph there: First Morning, Alabama Hills. This was the first of many visits and compositions I made in this landscape during the next two decades.

Joshua Tree NP
Alternating with my trips to the Alabama Hills were my visits to Joshua Tree NP. It’s a huge park with a varied landscape with some fascinating rock outcroppings interspersed among the Joshua trees and other yuccas. 
At first I was drawn to the various vignettes of rocks and flora which formed natural rock gardens. Then, I took closer looks at the iconic rocks themselves, which harken to my childhood fascination with granite in Connecticut.

Stones and Stars
In 2017 and 2018 I began to photograph the night sky and the brilliant stars that shine above us. It felt natural to include the stones of the Alabama Hills and Joshua Tree in the foregrounds of these astro photographs. While composing under the sparkling vault of the sky, I thought of the rich history of stones and stars and how they are intimately connected. I know that the ancient megalithic sites like Stonehenge served as astronomical observatories and seasonal calendars. The relation of stones and stars has provided both meaning and wonder to us for thousands of years.


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