Stopping by Woods
I was interested in the portion of this week’s readings (and the presentation on Tuesday) which concerned how we use the visual qualities of our surroundings to construct senses of self and place. The Helmers reading talks about the reciprocal relationship between words and images, each contextualizing the other. Additionally, there was a lot of discussion this week about how colors, textures, and other visual qualities function to impart emotion to scenery, and determine how we feel about it. I want to explore those ideas more here.
On top is a photograph I took in the pine woods surrounding my house some years ago; on the bottom is a picture I took in the same patch of woods earlier today. Despite the dominant feature — that is, the trees themselves — being nearly identical between the two pictures, each has a distinct feeling associated with it.
The color differences may be the first thing to strike you. The winter scene would hardly change if it were presented in black and white, since the pure white of the snow and the dark silhouettes of the trees already dominate the frame. The verdancy of the bottom image contrasts starkly with this, and the vivifying effect this has is obvious.
The winter image feels muted and static, not only because of its lack of color, but because of the lack of vegetation which denies it color. Aside from literally contributing greenness to the bottom picture, the plants also make it seem more full, and active. The snow, in contrast, feels soft, and seems to mute any action of the top picture.
I find I do derive some sense of self from living in this setting. I have actually always lived in large woods, away from other houses. This may in part explain my aversion to busyness, to loud noises, big buildings, bright lights, and cities in general. I can’t abide them. It’s nearly two hours round trip every day to RIT, but it’s worth it.