On my way to Anasazi country recently, I stopped at Arches National Park, where I stayed the night. Next morning before dawn, I was off to an area known as the Devil’s Garden, which I had never visited. It turned out to be one of the weirdest landscapes I’ve ever seen: a few trees and other plants sprinkled among mostly bare reddish sandstone, eroded into bizarre shapes determined partly by crack systems. Although the day before I had ignored the more famous features, I immediately got to work making pictures. Almost as quickly, the metaphor of bones came to me. These rocks were like internal structural elements somehow made visible at the surface. I knew the series would have to be titled Bones of the Earth.
I haven’t had a chance to do more than the most cursory processing of the images so far (I’m away from home again this week). But I did try an idea I had while thinking about them on the trip: invert black and white. This is way stronger manipulation than I’ve ever done in the past. But it creates an image that is clearly alien — which I thought appropriate — and also makes it seem that the base color is more white than dark, in keeping with the bones concept. Below is what the normal version of the lead image looks like.
Some areas would have to be called ribs:
I am curious about your reaction to the inverted images. At this point I’m still “playing” with that treatment, unsure whether I want to use it or not. Does it strike you as pointless distortion? Is there more to it than shock value? In terms of pure tonal design, do you have a preference for normal or negative?
Somehow the weirdness of these rocks makes them inherently abstract, and they invite abstract treatment. Sunil, are you out there? Imagine these rocks as a weathered old face, what would you do with it? Can you get me some color?