Several years ago we took a road trip across South Dakota–the land of long, lonely, wonderful landscapes–to see Mt. Rushmore, the Black Hills, and Devil’s Tower.
My then six-year-old daughter, Lucy, decided she was going to take charge of the camera on this trip. We had just purchased our first digital camera and I told her, firmly, “No, you don’t know how to use the camera.” Lucy worked her persuasive magic and somehow became the trip’s official photographer. Lucky for Lucy, her introduction to photography pretty much came at a time when most of us were leaving film cameras behind and transitioning to the digital photographic world. If we were burning through roll after roll of film, I probably would have put my foot down.
Lucy went to town and took as many photos as the camera could handle. All the while, I was informing her of all the “wrong” things she was doing. She wasn’t getting people in the shots. She was taking close-ups of insignificant things. I was sure the photos all had her hand in front of the lens. On the long ride home, I scrolled through her collection of photos. They were mesmerizing. I would have never taken these kinds of pictures. She was a natural at composition. She took photos of lovely things that tickled her fancy. Like dung beetles, a lone tree. She took a picture of army drill activities taking place in Custer State Park, that had, to my surprise, a delightful 1/3, 2/3 composition.
Now, when we go on vacation, we just hand Lucy the camera. She takes the photos at my art exhibits. I think this gift is in her DNA. If I were to shake her family tree, some creative people would probably land in front of her.
Some of my Lucy favorites over the years have been her Rothko-esque shots, as well has her whimsical eye.
At about the time Lucy began taking photos, a gallerist I had just begun working with told me my loose, abstract landscapes were selling pretty well. But she said the abstracts with one identifiable image in them were selling the best. One of the pieces that had sold was called “A Day on the Farm,” a bright yellow and green-gold abstract piece with one discernible image in it: a grain silo. Her comment made me think of all the little images I could hide among the energy of my landscapes: a lighthouse, trees, sailboats, bison, a barn, a fence. I was off and running with ideas and haven’t stopped yet. And then, just the other day, I connected Lucy’s photography to my artwork. I think we have unknowingly been each others’ muse. I can’t wait to see her images from our next trip. And maybe she’ll get some ideas from my next exhibit.