Creative Process: Nudes in Nature

Nudes in Nature Lucas JamesI’m teaching a class this weekend entitled “Nudes in Nature”.  I’m out of my comfort zone with this workshop, as I really don’t shoot nudes outside.  It’s just not my thing, mostly because the subject risks becoming clichè or trite.  How many images are there of: nude on a rock, nude in front of a bush, nude on the sand, etc?  I’m guessing billions.  But I’m a firm believer that struggle leads to growth, so I’m all in for the course.

So how am I going to get around this?  Whenever I get stuck, I go at a problem from a different angle.  Forget the nudity for now and let’s focus on some concepts.  We’ll fill in subject and technique later.  Bear with me through a decidedly non-linear creative process after the jump.

Last week we were in Yosemite National Park and I got to see the Giant Sequoia trees for the first time.  These magnificent plants are incredibly massive! As in, it takes several minutes just to walk around the base of the largest ones- not your typical trees.  You can get an idea of the scale from the snapshot.

Picture of a Giant Sequoia by Lucas James

People look like ants milling about the bottoms of these giants.  The museum had a timeline plotting the age of the oldest of the currently living Giant Sequoias.  When that tree first germinated, the cornerstone of the Parthenon was being laid.  Think about that for a second.  When one of the current saplings reaches its full age, you and I, and everyone we have ever known, and everyone who has ever known them will be long gone from this earth.

The farm for our workshop is in many ways typical for New England woodlands.  It is crisscrossed by stone walls running into the woods- remnants from when the land was cleared for farming in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.  After the American Revolution people began migrating westward looking for, among other things, land without so many rocks!  Populations shifted and land use changed.  The people who moved those stones are long gone and forest has reclaimed the plowed fields.

On the grand scale of things, our existence is ephemeral on this landscape.  When seen from the perspective of a Giant Sequoia, we are but fleeting memories, ghostly shadows passing over the ground.  So that’s the concept from which I’m starting.  I’ll show how I develop that with the class in the next post.  Stay tuned!

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