Monday, November 9, 2009

Four Peaceful Places . . .

In some earlier posts in these pages, way earlier, I mentioned I'm a fan of Eliot Porter's photography. Few photographers have inspired me like he has. While out tramping around in eastern France these past few days, trying to gain a better appreciation for some of the history of the First World War, a few shots taken could be said to be in homage to Eliot Porter.
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In the shadow of the American memorial monument at Montfaucon, a rose, thistles, and barbed wire still life . . .
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On top of Fort Douaumont, Verdun Battlefield, the ground is still pitted with shell holes, 90 years later . . .
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In the forest that now covers an area just across the Meuse River from Verdun known as Hill 304, yet another of the many intensely bloody battlefields of that conflict, nature and quiet seem to be gaining the upper hand . . .
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On the stone wall of a munitions depot in the forest near the Froideterre Fort, north of Verdun, leaves were going red . . . their roots eating into the mortar, one day those walls will fall . . .
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42 comments:

Caio Fernandes said...

this is a such incredible and beautiful post !!!
thank you for this wiew !!!

by the way , i loved the last post too .

TechnoBabe said...

I haven't been able to get past the rose, thistles, and barbed wire yet. Whew.

pRiyA said...

So this is what Verdun looks like. It is so beautiful in these photographs, it is hard to imagine that it was something quite different.

BLOGitse said...

WOW, I'm wordless...these photos are AMAZING!
Thanks for sharing!
Have a nice week! :)

louciao said...

I find the thistles and berries photo stunning: The textured details and brilliant hues against the cold sky. The field photo suggests a blanket that has been thrown over all that was lost there. The rusty reds, the blood that was spilled.

The terrain and vegetation look a lot like the province where I live.

James said...

Hi Owen. These pictures are absolutely beautiul!
I used to live about twenty miles from the Amon Carter museum (the one in the link) and I was even a patron at the Kimbell museum across the street from it. For most of the 2 years that I lived in the DFW area I kept saying "I really want to go to the Amon Carter museum, but darn it I never did go.

Anya said...

Its all very peaceful
Unique shots my compliments :))

Nathalie said...

The first photo is a real gem. Just like Technobabe, I find it hard to move on to the rest. The second photo is amazing because of the shell holes. The way the war changed the terrain is something that needs to be seen.

I remember when I was a child reading a story about kids who played near a field, found a mine, played with it and were blown to pieces. The moral of the story was very clear: don't play with stuff left from the war. I guess there were were still enough mines around in the countryside to make this a valuable message nationwide.

@eloh said...

Words fail. You should be making the big bucks for your photographs. The end.

Tiedupmemories said...

Wow! Just beautiful! I especially love the thistle photo! I just love it!

Martin H. said...

Really nice post Owen. The photograph at Fort Douaumont made me think of a seething ocean of souls.

Selina Kingston said...

Fabulous ! Really gorgeous. I think I've worked out why I love your photos so much - it's the way you capture colour. See, the third photo does that so well. I just love it. No, they are all beautiful. I'm going to sit here at this post for a while yet. If only it was Tuesday, I would have one of Sag's tipples as well, to make it just perfect....

kys said...

Those pictures are wonderful!

babbler said...

Mr. Slug saw those thistles and said to me, "They look like pretty good eatin' to me, just watch out for the bones."
I would stay a little longer and have a nother cuppa with u but I gotta slide fast this fine morning,,,be back soon!
Great post!
Love, Mrs, Slug

Steve said...

What incredibly sorrowful landscapes... beyond words. Glad you took the photographs.

J said...

I'd never considered the way that the landscape of the wars look like now, apart from the war graveyards or assumed it had turned back to farmland. So the picture of the shelled land was quite shocking, and then I started wondering about all the lives lost in those weird mounds...

Janie said...

Great post. Your brief descriptions and the stark simplicity of the photos make an important statement about war. The shell mounds that still remain was particularly interesting and sad.

The Sagittarian said...

My favourite is the one with the shell mounds, looks like an unmade bed really, so sad but beautiful photos.

jeff said...

Merde ! Heuuu ! Sorry !...
D'un commentaire à l'autre... on est passé de la carotte fougueuse au champ de tombé pour...!
Mince !
Mais, si j'essaie de faire un parallèle entre ces deux carottes enlacées et ce champ de combat... je dirais qu'il ne reste plus qu'à s'enlacer et s'embrasser pour... Ben, je sais pas trop... pour... Mince ! Je coince !... Un verdun plus ?...

Ciao amigo ! ! !
Tient ! J'ai vu passer une chenille !...;-)

Margaret Pangert said...

Hi Owen~ Incredibly beautiful photos, somehow life came from life. The field with the mounds made me feel those shapes covered bodies. As though nature made its own monuments--very moving.

Alyson (New England Living) said...

Those are all intensely beautiful, especially with your accompanying words. I especially adore the pitted battlefield.

Speedcat Hollydale said...

Spectacular ... intense bright post indeed

Marguerite said...

Such beautiful photos and enjoyed the history, too! Merci for your visits and sweet comments, cher!

Peter said...

Terrible souvenirs, but really beautiful pictures and well chosen words...!

Owen said...

Caio F., many thanks, you're very welcome !

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TechnoB, it's ok, take all the time you need, there's no hurry...
:-)... thanks...

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Hi Priya, yeah, I think 90 years ago it looked more like the surface of the moon, but covered in mud and broken trees and all the wreckage of warfare. Nearly the entire battlefield area, and it is vast, was re-forested, as it would not be possible to farm again there anytime soon. But even in the woods the ground is an incredible morass of holes and trenches and mounds... very hard to walk through, and it goes on for miles and miles. Very hard to get a sense for the vast size of the conflict until one starts walking through some of these areas...

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Dear BLOGitse, a thousand thank you's ! Really appreciate your kindness...

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Lynne, you read my mind about the colors... blood will out, I guess. Would love to see your province some day... now, how about a hot drink ? Like the steaming spiced wine that one can find on the ski slopes, it's chilly today... I'll bet the Saj wouldn't say no either... !
:-)

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James, well, I suppose you're just going to have to go back to Dallas and visit that museum... I'd love to go see their collection, and get permission to really dig into the thousands of photos that Porter left them in his will. The website barely scratches the surface I fear. He did publish some beautiful books though. One in particular, on the Smoky Mountains, written with Edward Abbey, is outstanding...

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Anya, many thanks ! Peace is the purpose...

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Nathalie, the terrain still bears incredible scars, even under 90 years of forest growth. And there are many signs in these areas warning people not to play with anything they may find, as objects can still be lethal...

Owen said...

@eloh, hey, wow, I am humbly shaking my head... that is my dream, to find a way to make a living doing what I love best... getting out and hunting for images like these... Well, maybe someday someone with the wherewithal will be willing to sponsor the project... in the meanwhile, I blog, therefore I am...
:-)

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Hi Tied Up... many, many thanks indeed...

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Martin, yeah, you can feel them there, almost hear them calling from the ground...

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Selina, the colors are often what pull me in to a scene, and then I'll start looking for an angle that sets them off. Well, do sit as long as you like, and wouldn't it be nice to get everyone around a table for one of Saj's Tuesday Tipples, shucks, it's Tuesday now where I am... ! Must be nigh time !

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Kys, I thank you profoundly...

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Dear Mrs Slug,
There's plenty of good eating for Slugs in these parts, fields full of spinach and sugar beet greens for starters... Slide on back over any time at all, the coffee's always hot...

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Hey Steve, yeah, a hell of alot of grief was soaked up into the soil here, but the sense I get is one of renewal, of re-birth... the scars are softening, the stones are vanishing under moss and frost is breaking them down... in another 100 years, maybe the traces will be less visible...

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J,
many a life lost in these parts, the mounds are sort of like barrows. Some areas of the Western Front have returned to farmlands, but other places have not, like around Verdun, the major battlesites were re-planted with forest, despite the bumpy terrain. Prisoners of war were used after the war to fill in shell holes in some areas... back-breaking work...

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Janie, thanks... and despite all we know and all we have seen in the past couple of hundred years... the wars go on. "When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn..."

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Dear Saj, I thought our house was the only place where certain children leave unmade beds... And what is that old expression, "You make your bed, and then you lie in it" ? Could apply here...

Owen said...

Ah Jeff, oui, on change de vitesses de temps en temps, les carottes peuvent se faire manger par les lames d'un mixeur... se transformer en salade... si l'homme pourrait simplement imiter les carottes ici, au lieu de se taper dessus, on ira mieux sur cette planete...

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Hi Margaret P., I think nature did make a monument here, softening the edges, rounding the corners, covering all with trees and grass...

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Alyson, thanks so much... don't know if there are any sites in the US from the Civil War or other that might bear marks like these still, but yes, the pockmarked ground speaks loud and clear...

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Speedcat Hollydale, hi ! thanks for dropping in here... I was just looking at your page, looks like a wild and crazy place... glad you enjoyed this...

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Marguerite, it's always a pleasure to see what's cooking at your place... and thanks, merci beaucoup !!!

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Peter, terrible is the word...

Patricia said...

Owen,
Great photos that are an homage to E. Porter. Your work is sensitive and the color is exquisite.
Fascinating that his brother was one of my favorite painters, Fairfield Porter.

AmyR said...

This is a beautiful post. The photo of my thistles is my favorite. Really lovely framing Owen!

Delwyn said...

Hello Owen

I just love the thistle and red berry shot - it called out to me...LOOK...and the battlefield does look as if a warm blanket has been thrown over a dark page of history...which even now is still very unsettled...

Happy days

Au fil de mes rêveries said...

Superbe Purement superbe le pinceau qui a ajouté, rehaussé les couleurs de ces paysages
j'aime beaucoup la première photo

Et j'aime la denière photo: la vie vaincra toujours la roche en s'infiltrant dans une faille

Owen said...

Hi Patricia, I'm not familiar with Fairfield's paintings... will have to go look, hopefully a few can be found on the net ? Thanks for the tip...

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Hey Amy, am happy you enjoyed... amazing what one can find when one gets out of the car and starts walking...

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Hi Delwyn... slowly but surely nature covers all with her blanket...

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Bonjour Au Fil, et bienvenue, la main qui tient le pinceau qui à fait ces tableaux est attachée à une source plus profonde et plus vaste que les miennes... je ne suis qu'un simple interprète... merci d'être passé, c'est toujours un plaisir de voir de nouvelles présences ici...

TechnoBabe said...

Owen, maybe you don't know it but I and I am sure others come back to your blog again and again just to look and revisit the photos, with a different perspective and in a different mood. Like this time how much the lovely colorful plant growing out of the stone wall at the munitions depot. The photo means even more knowing where it was taken.

olivia said...

Owen, these are amazing. I spent some time reading about Eliot Porter after your comment at my b and reading of this post. I love the vibrancy of colour you captured, of textures ... and of the meaning behind each image. The first photo is very compelling - the rose, thistle and barbwire ... and the battleground that looks as though someone has shaken out a mossy green afghan over top of all the history of the place.

Owen said...

Dear TechnoB., you can rest assured that I am conscious of, and totally amazed by, the attention these pages are getting at present... For the first several months of blogging, starting a year ago last September, the norm was zero comments and a visitor stopping by only once every few days. It wasn't until the first of Januarly 2009 that I even put a visit counter on the bottom of the page, and the flag & world map gadgets that give an idea of where visitors are coming from. But it remained very slow through the first several months of this year. But now the counter is moving toward 23000 visits and people are stopping in from all over the world.

All I can say is that I am deeply appreciative and grateful to all of you who are interested in what is going on here. I'm more or less pouring out my life story in these pages; my love for photography and poetry. If any of it is of interest to others, then I am just immensely flattered. After the very slow start I was starting to think this would just be a voice in the wilderness, heard by the trees and the sky, carried away on the wind.

So, yes, I am tickled pink that people are coming back, and really appreciate your time; I know how much time visiting blogs can take, and leaving comments. That anyone finds these pages a worthwhile place to visit and spend a few minutes of their busy days, just touches me way deep down. Thank you...

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Olivia, many thanks for dropping in here, I confess I have been lurking on your site for some time now, really like what you are doing... Many thanks !

robert said...

It's an old Zen saying, that 'the teacher will appear, if the student is ready'.

For sure you are able to paint with your camera many great pictures.

A wonderful Wednesday for you.

namaki said...

les couleurs sont fabuleuses et la seconde est vraiment impressionnante !!

Lydia said...

Exquisitely moving, Owen.

Roxana said...

colours woven with history, stone and wire with time and loss...
a very thought-provoking, yet also quietly beautiful essay...

Tami said...

That photo....or the ground. That is just amazing. I had no idea...that the ground will still bear those scares.

Owen said...

Robert, Namaki, Lydia, Roxana, and Tami...

You dear good people... you slipped in here and I missed answering as I'd gone back to work on the 10th and things got very crazy very fast. But if you see this, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for your company on this blogging adventure... and for you kind encouragement... you make it all worthwhile.

Phil said...

de bien jolies couleurs, bravo !