There was rock all over the place at Finger Lakes Stone. Boulders. Slabs of sliced rock. Piles of stones of all sizes. Maybe it’s a gift—I don’t know— to be able to go to a rock quarry and imagine mountains from stacked pieces of rock, to see things as much bigger and grander than they are. Then, the challenge is to convince others that the mountains in your mind are real. In Photoshop, I maneuvered my images of rocks to make a fabricated landscape with a rocky frame. I added hazy white scattering between layers of rocks to make the sky and horizon more believable.
My kids used to accuse me of not knowing how to play, not being silly enough. And it’s true. Silliness never came naturally to me. But now, photo-shopping allows me to stretch the truth and lie. To make things up. To play. Even when I’m depressed.
The bellies were plump and sagging on all the animals at the farm where I was doing a class photo-shoot. Back home, by the time I dropped my images into Photoshop, I couldn’t remember exactly whose belly I’d shot, a sheep’s or a goat’s or a horse’s. No matter. For my fabricated landscape of the week, I was turning whoever’s hairy belly it was into a heavenly body. I placed it over the upended, very somber trunk of a tree that, in my mind, resembled a flowing river. This is about as silly as I get.
In the middle of a bright sunny day fatigue was overtaking me. All I wanted to do was nap. There was no way I could muster up the energy to do yard work so, instead, I promised myself ice cream if I could finish up one more fabricated landscape in Photoshop. I got lost in the project, as I knew I would, forgetting the ice cream and the fatigue, as well as whatever was depressing and stressing me. I worked away until the day grew dark and it was time for dinner. And in the end, I felt inspired, proud, and productive.
In Photoshop, the beautiful slope of a horse’s back became a moonlit hill. The belly of another horse fit neatly into the curve of the back to make a night sky. Then, using the dodge tool, I etched out a moon into the smooth dark horse-belly sky.
Walking out from a construction site, I passed by something slick, tarlike and greasy, on the ground. I’d had a hard time finding interesting things to photograph at the site but suddenly I was intrigued. The reflection of lamplight and the oozy-goozy-ness of whatever it was on the floor immediately reminded me of a night sky. In Photoshop, I paired it with the dry rusted wrought iron beam I’d discovered in the same building. I burned a highlight in the image of the rusty iron to reflect the “moonlight” of the tarry sky. The darkness of the place in the picture would normally depress me but creating these fabricated landscapes allows me to disappear into them at times and draw up enough light to feel comfortable.
I can remember the old library in Ithaca. It was a great place to hang out, especially in the oversized book section where I could page through endless picture books in search of inspiration. Library Place is now a construction site for a downtown senior living center, and I didn’t imagine there would be anything inspiring, that I’d feel like photographing—until I stumbled upon a wrought iron beam that had been corroding, left exposed to the air and water. Intrigued by the pattern and colors, all I had to do in Photoshop was burn out a rising sun. An image of metal treads got photo-shopped into a frame.
On Sunday mornings when I was a kid, my father would take my sister and me out flying in his small airplane. Gazing out the window, over the noise of the airplane engine I would sing Susie Little Susie, an old folksong about a poor girl and barefooted geese that couldn’t afford to buy new shoes. All the while I picked out tiny houses or teeny-tiny individuals down below us. “God bless the people who live there,” I’d say, from up above the world. I felt very privileged and close to God up there. And, though I hadn’t experienced the loss of anything greater than a goldfish or two back then, I knew that everyone needed someone praying for them, needed someone watching over them. Feeling fairly secure, I sent out love and blessings to strangers.
These days, I pick out bits and pieces of my photographed images to create small worlds in Photoshop. Maybe it’s the calm or maybe it’s elation—something about what goes on in my head when I’m photo-shopping reminds me of flying over the world in the back of my father’s plane. For this fabricated landscape, I pumped up the blue color of a slate slab so I could make it into a river or a bay. I paired it with a mossy patch of ground I found in a Maine woods this summer, to create a fake aerial landscape.