River Photos, Paterson, New Jersey (January 2005)
A Note On The Photographs
For the last two years, I have been going out to shoot around the city of Paterson with different cameras using different formats. I was working with large-format photographer George Tice and helping him with his book project on the city. And I began reading William Carlos Williams again to see if I could get new insights into his work. I read a section of Williams’ “Paterson,” a poem in five books, which anthropomorphizes the city and creates an allegory for the poetic soul in search of its muse.
The poem starts off at the Great Falls of the Passaic River (which supplies Paterson with its water and power), and moves out from there to Garret Mountain (which overlooks the city), and then to the public library downtown. I would read a section of the poem and the next day I would walk to the actual location that was referenced in the poem and take photos.
These photos were taken just behind the falls on a day when the city was shrouded in a deep winter fog. The river seemed to disappear into still silence. I noticed that the water was barely moving and that the surface was smooth. The trees reflected on the mirror surface of the water creating a double image and the colors were so subdued that the effect is almost black and white.
I felt a sense of calm in being caught in the twilight of river and sky blending together in the winter afternoon. I am reminded of those Japanese ink washes of Zen monks who balance at the edge of nothingness. There’s a solitary sense of being alone with nature, of finding solace in the mystery of not knowing where the horizon ends or where the sky begins.
Images and Text © Mark Hillringhouse, 2005