Anecdote of the Jar

I’m not sure if this is considered street photography, but I suppose so, if street photography is about scenes that are found rather than staged, about scenes that say something about the interactions between human beings and their environment.

For those interested in film photography: all photographs are taken with Contax TVS, loaded with Superia Venus 800. That’s the gear I carry these days. This post is inspired by Wallace Stevens’ poem, “Anecdote of the Jar”:

I placed a jar in Tennessee,

And round it was, upon a hill.

It made the slovenly wilderness

Surround that hill.

 

The wilderness rose up to it,

And sprawled around, no longer wild.

The jar was round upon the ground

And tall and of a port in air.

 

It took dominion everywhere.

The jar was gray and bare.

It did not give of bird or bush,

Like nothing else in Tennessee.

 

A quick Google search will reveal various possible readings to the poem, so I’ll suppress my inner poetry geek as much as I can.

 

I’ll simply say that at the minimum, the poem is about the relationship between human artifacts and nature.

 

The take-away philosophical point is that a man-made object placed/installed in nature changes nature.

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Is nature a rubbish dump, a depository of things no longer useful?

 

The joker in me tells me it’s a supermarket shopping cart that has lost its way.

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Nature is nature.

 

A journey into what nature is is man-made.

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Is nature a resource we exploit?

 

I am reminded of the following lines from Heidegger’s essay “The Question Concerning Technology’ , about how our instrumentalist attitude to nature (and everything else) reduces everything¬†into a “standing-reserve”, as means for other ends:

 

Everywhere everything is ordered to stand by, to be immediately at hand, indeed to stand there just so that it may be on call for a further ordering. (Heidegger “Question Concerning Technology”)

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We’ve learnt to frame nature.

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And in our arrogance, we forget it is nature that frames us.

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Perhaps we’re the ones putting obstacles between ourselves and nature, between ourselves and ourselves.

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