I only realised quite recently that photography can become one of the many forms of divination – in the root sense of communicating with the ‘gods’ ( divi-), that is, rather than seeking answers to a specific questions. For me, this means going into a receptive state and seeing what ‘shows’, or perhaps what is shown, by the light. Amongst hills that accentuate the daily and seasonal difference in the direction and angle of sunlight, and in a climate where sunlight often breaks through between moving clouds, this works quite well.
My first purchase of a small digital camera, in November 2005, from a camera shop in Clitheroe, was marked by a curious co-incidence. At the very moment that I decided to make the purchase, there was a very loud ‘bang’, and everyone in the street outside stood still! Ahem. I then realised that it was 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month – Armistice day. They must have fired a gun up at the castle. The shopkeeper asked me if I wanted to pause and observe the minute’s silence. Someone else in the shop did, but I felt this was a bit of an imposition, so went ahead with my purchase against a curiously silent backdrop. The moment felt oddly propitious. This would be some camera.
Even though the screen was frustratingly indistinct I really enjoyed using it. The image above was taken with it at one of those moments when a whole series of fortunate ‘co-incidences’ come together. The stream was flowing at just the right level, the twig had caught on the stone in just the right place, autumn leaves had piled up behind it, sunlight was illuminating the quite deep cleft in the hill beneath the trees, and I was in the right frame of mind to notice.
One voice in me is quite sceptical about simulacra like this. They seem too obvious, too anthropocentric. Another responds eagerly to the quite deep ‘aha’ feeling of having been blessed with an elemental communication from the subtle fabric of the land. There is, of course, a huge amount of (dualist) tradition about stones being recepticles, or expressions, of ‘Spirit’. From a monist/animist perspective, such moments bring the possibility of the personhood of stones, and of the land, into focus, whether or not a camera is involved. And of course, our primal ancestors had a special regard for the beauty and communicative power of stone.