On showing a photograph, I like to see on the viewer’s face an expression of surprise, an expression that says, Really? This is a thing? This is a thing that exists here, where I live? I very much imagine when I chance upon a new potential member of the Bugphoto library that I have a similar face (but probably with additional sound effects and/or oaths). Discovery is inspiring: there’s more to come. There’s more bugs to photograph; more enlightenment to shine; more records to set; more inventions to create; more terrain (past the sky and below the oceans) to traverse; and more friends to make. The endless more is right here and right there; we have but to venture farther into the world and it is ours.
Unfortunately, in this putative Information Age, the endless cavalcade of mishmashed possibilities are crushing many of us with something more akin to anxiety and insecurity, rather than moving us with wonder and inspiration. I struggle with this problem of too many choices, and yet often enough it comes down to one choice, often the most difficult: Where do I begin?
Concerning my photography, I usually begin at Clarksburg State Park. And by now, it’s not a difficult choice to make. I usually don’t think about it — it’s a beautiful day; that settles it; I’m going out to shoot; and I’m going to the pond (as I call it). Mauserts Pond is a shallow, warm, and weedy puddle in the middle of this little park. Local (not quite) “legend” claims it was once a meadow that the Christians decided to flood on account of the pagan festivals held there. They used to pull ice out of it when ice boxes were the mode of refrigeration. As a child, I used to swim in it and fish it with my father for catfish. I suppose it has seen a lot of iterations over the years. Recently, there has been less swimming on account of the geese (poop!) and leeches (yeah, I know, even better but not as bad as it sounds!), but people fish and canoe in it; dogs run into it with a carefree abandon we might envy; kids play in the sand; people picnic at the pavilion and the scattered tables. A photographer pokes around the bushes and (quite honorably) around the outside of the bug magnet that is the restroom facility.For all its uses, the park carries a beautiful quietude. The campgrounds are usually busy, but the day use area is not. The main trail loops around the pond with smaller ones veining around the campgrounds and headquarters. Typically: A biker comes and goes; a hiking group enters at the trailhead, not to be heard of again (I mean by the photographer!). People walk their dogs, who usually have a lot to sniff on so little leash, to the beach. A person on the beach finally notices a couple has interrupted his solitude; he points out the moose on the opposite side of the pond. It is a small place full of small wonders, and given the great wonders of big places, the mythical landscapes far from this locale, it might also seem a little sad; this puny tract of reclaimed farmland in spoiled New England standing in for the fallen glory of an ancient forest. But I’d disagree.
Every so often, in between crouches over and under plants and their tiny insect tenants, I have a thought: a lot more people could use this place; they could enjoy and prosper from it if they just knew. But they don’t. It’s a happy (if also selfish) thought.
Still, I’m sharing some words on this special place, because this is a place where I can begin. Here is where my bugs are, where my inspiration is, what I hope to give to whomever might stumble upon my photos. This is the place, and there’s nothing like the front row. There’s nothing like a live show.
And make no mistake the bugs are here. I like to think I am diligent, but there is always something different to see. Often times it is a new creature, but lacking that, a distinct behavior, a unique moment. One of the great things is, I do not have to dig up the park or cut through the bush to find an interesting subject. I rarely even go on the trails, let alone off them. Most of my finds are at the edges of the driveway and parking lots, on the boundaries of the landscaped areas. Sometimes I think I should be more “adventurous,” some sort of intrepid explorer, but I’m usually pleasantly surprised and happily rewarded with my discoveries (even if I tend to complain about my photographic results afterwards).
The opportunities for discovery are of course not just where one happens to live; I, for one, very much hope to explore new places and meet new citizens of the bug and human worlds alike — but self-discovery awaits wherever we are at home. If this seems like simple, old (and hopefully not too hackneyed) wisdom, well it is. Shakespeare said, “This above all: to thine own self be true.” That’s pretty much straight to the point, but like a lot of timeless wisdom, it is not wisdom until it is ours. That is to say, there is no wisdom without experience. I’ve been fortunate enough to find a home at “the pond,” but I am still trying to figure out how to be wise, to be true to myself, to be at home wherever I am. In the meanwhile, it helps knowing where to begin. It helps knowing where my bugs are.
p.s. Good luck finding your bugs!