To Seek

To Seek

to seek by Stephen Pullan IV

Once as a boy traveling along a country road past meadow and farm, my grandmother sat firmly behind the wheel of a pea green ford with imitation wood sides. There was no destination at all, as summer evenings where apt to produce. This was the lazy adventure of a Sunday drive. The car flitted through shadow and sun. Past ramshackle barns and pastoral fields when all at once it happened upon a rolling apple orchard and suddenly, without warning the image was forever impressed upon my brain as if my eyes a shutter had open and closed and the light that poured in burned itself into the plate of my mind. Click!

It was an exceptional setting. Tall yellow grass, sun dappled leaves. Branches reaching into the sky forming the dark intricate patterns of stained glass against deep blue. Yet for some reason it impressed me so deeply that it was a scene I never really forgot. When I returned home I immediately painted it. Then I painted it again, and again until I had painted it maybe twelve times. Each painting remained  distinctly different from the others. Some concerned with complexity, others atmosphere, color, impression. Years later, I repeated the exercise with more expertise. Drawing upon the orchard picture for inspiration for it never really left my mind. I painted this landscape again and again twelve times seeking to express in some way the perfect picture that had formed in my mind but was impossible to express in one painting.

In this way I made my first photograph, without using a camera at all. It was an exercise I would repeat many times as an artist. To look at something and commit it to memory. For many years the expression of paint and brush on canvas was the medium that spoke to me most because everything was considered and controlled. You can paint what you could never really photograph I told myself and in some ways I was right. The created world of the mind and that of the brush and pigment was indeed more vibrant and pure than the muddled and sometimes overly complicated world.

And as all things will swing to one side or another my path along the twisted stepping stones of an artist led me straight back to photography. Perhaps the very thing that intrigued me all along. The moment, the impression of the world that stops time and space. A shaft of sunlight  immovable and specks of dust and pollen frozen in their flight. The still picture that fills the gaps of memory and reminds us of the world’s minute intricacies. Seeking the picture that’s as if twelve paintings could merge to make one photograph.


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