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THE JOURNEY OF ONE INCH

09/09/2009

The camera is a point of reference, a bit like a compass though not nearly so predictable.  It is the discipline and the opportunity of vision.  In relation to the enclosure we call civilization, these pictures are not ornaments or relics, but windows and doors, enlargements of our living space, entrances into the mysterious world outside our walls, lessons in what to look for and how to see.  They limit our comfort; they drain away the subtle corruption of being smug, they make us a little afraid, for they suggest always the presence of the unknown, what lies outside the picture and beyond eyesight; they suggest  the possibility  of the sudden access of delight, vision, beauty, joy that entice  us to keep alive and reward us for living; they can serve as spiritual landmarks in the pilgrimage to the earth that each one of us must undertake alone.
Wendell Berry, The Unforeseen Wilderness: Kentucky’s Red River Gorge 1971

tuwGoogle Book Review: Only someone who values land enough to farm a hillside for more than thirty years could write about a wild place so lovingly. Wendell Berry just as easily steps into Kentucky’s Red River Gorge and makes the observations of a poet as he does step away to view his subject with the keen, unflinching eye of an essayist. The inimitable voice of Wendell Berry at once frank and lovely is our guide as we explore this unique wilderness.

Located in eastern Kentucky and home to 26,000 acres of untamed river, rock formations, historical sites, unusual vegetation and wildlife, the Gorge very nearly fell victim to a man-made lake thirty years ago. No place is to be learned like a textbook, Berry tells us, and so through revealing the Gorges corners and crevices, its ridges and rapids, his words not only implore us to know more but to venture there ourselves. Infused with his very personal perspective and enhanced by the startling photographs of Ralph Eugene Meatyard, The Unforeseen Wilderness draws the reader in to celebrate an extraordinary natural beauty and to better understand what threatens it.

Preview the book in Google Reader HERE.

“Walking through the woods, he finds within the apparent clutter of trunks and branches a row of trees, leading the eye on.  He sees the entrance of the sun upon a rock face.  Among the dark trees, time and again, there appears suddenly a tree of light…these images are the record of his pilgrimage, and he has moved on.”

It is interesting that the photographer Berry describes in TUW is is the enigmatic, reclusive, and fellow Kentuckian, Ralph Eugene Meatyard.

Meatyard, generally known for his fanciful, often nightmarish, and surreal imagery is described by Berry as being the opposite to what one might expect. “Being with Gene in the Gorge was like being with him anywhere else: it was a pleasure with surprises.  He was a good, always interesting companion,” Berry says.  The beautiful passages Berry writes describing the landscape seem to be directly related to Meatyard’s vision and photographs, as the author reveals in the forward to TUW, “…though he was never assertively – and perhaps not even consciously – a teacher, I took much instruction from his presence and from his photographs.  Such things are hard to demonstrate, but I know that I learned about the Gorge, and thought and wrote about it, under the influence of his way of seeing.”

Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Untitled, 1968-72

Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Untitled, 1968-72

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