“I remember a cartoon depicting a chimney sweep falling from the roof of a tall building and noticing on the way that a sign-board had one word spelled wrong, and wondering in his headlong flight why nobody had thought of correcting it. In a sense, we all are crashing to our death from the top story of our birth to the flat stones of the churchyard and wondering with an immortal Alice in Wonderland at the patterns of the passing wall. This capacity to wonder at trifles — no matter the imminent peril — these asides of the spirit, these footnotes in the volume of life are the highest forms of consciousness, and it is in this childishly speculative state of mind, so different from common sense and its logic, that we know the world to be good.”
– Strong Opinions, Vladimir Nabokov
The Public Gardens is a short walk from home and for decades I photographed the Gardens in a desultory way – trying on someone else’s subject matter, convinced that my own photographic imagination wouldn’t take root in a carefully tended Victorian garden. Eventually, the Public Gardens became not just an unavoidable neighbour but an irresistible puzzle.
As a young photographer, I preferred a soft light shining on an unambiguous subject. An old photographer now, I make pictures that more closely match my temperament and my time: pictures full of stuff competing for attention, pictures with some things close at hand and other things out of reach, pictures of solid things alongside fugitive shadows, crisp facts and dark shapes, . . .
When I worked on “A Nova Scotia Archive”, I was describing a fragile built landscape that was at risk due to greed and neglect. In 2019, that same negligence can make a picture of a sunlit tree look like both a gift and a warning.
All photographs: Copyright © 1970-2020 Alvin Comiter