Monday, July 21, 2014

Nazca Lines: the cold waiting veins of the future

I have been dwelling these past few weeks on image-making and the ephemerality of landscape, how creating a simulacrum of the natural world takes into the creator something of the image, how in the moment of making, in the snap of a photo, a dead or dying thing displaces something living. The static nature of the simulacrum throws into sharp relief the dynamic, mortal nature of the subject, which is not the landscape, per se, but the moment of looking: the terraced ribs of the mountain, the corpse-strewn furrows of the winter field, the faltering breath of the author laboring in thin air.

I keep thinking of this passage from Midnight's Children:
"Aadam's eyes are a clear blue, the astonishing blue of mountain sky, which has a habit of dripping into the pupils of Kashmiri men; they have not forgotten how to look. They see— there! like the skeleton of a ghost, just beneath the surface of Lake Dal— the delicate tracery, the intricate crisscross colorless lines, the cold waiting veins of the future."
Have I forgotten how to look?

Next month Yale University Press will be releasing The Lines, a monograph of images highlighting the delicate tracery of the Nazca geoglyphs in southern Peru, from Edward Ranney (1942-), one of the foremost photographers of the Peruvian landscape.

Most popular images of the Nazca lines are aerial, a distant, almost commodified version of seeing. Ranney's by contrast are ground-level, intimate, highlighting an imperfect, shifting landscape, closer to the way the Nazcas saw it 2,000 years ago.
Though I have seen the glyphs from the air, as a landscape photographer, my approach has been to explore and photograph the straight and geometric lines ... in the dry foothills bordering the desert. This book is in no way definitive, it just represents one person’s interest in finding these glyphs and photographing them in the context in which their creators experienced them. 
("Photographing the Nazca Geoglyphs in Peru: An Interview with Photographer Ed Ranney," PetaPixel, July 21, 2014)
The future is already written in the hills, in the water, on the ground. Who among us can learn to read it up-close?

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