Volunteer, event photographer, and free-spirit Silke Hase works with the Griffin Museum in a multitude of ways all of which challenge us to expand our perspective and understanding of fine art photography. Her work and deep connection with nature helps cultivate a community of wellness and creativity here at the Griffin and we are glad to share some of her thoughts and considerations with you.
We talked with Silke this past week and got an insider view into some of her quarantine living and quarantine dreaming. And you will see her drive towards photography and creating guarantees her ideas, whether a success or failure, always come to pass, and in that freedom to create she finds her Griffin State of Mind.
Describe how you first found the Griffin. How long have you been part of the Griffin community? Describe your connection to the Griffin.
I was taking the Zone System workshop at the New England School of Photography in 2005 when the instructor, Nick Johnson, told the class. “If you don’t know the Griffin Museum of Photography you should check it out”. So I did.
Even though I had been interested in photography for many years, and had worked in a darkroom many times, this was the first time that I experienced the world of fine art photography outside of its obvious Ansel Adams corner.
I loved attending the Griffin openings, and tried to see as many shows as possible
One day I noticed a really, really bad official group photo on the Griffin’s FB page of the exhibiting artists taken at an opening reception with a cellphone. I couldn’t resist teasing Paula about it. She explained that Walter, their official event photographer, had health issues. Since I was at most of the openings anyway, I offered to bring my camera next time and take some photos if Walter wasn’t there. I have been covering the Griffin events ever since.
How do you involve photography in your everyday? Can you describe one photograph that recently caught your eye?
I find that I have two different kinds of photographs in my life that require completely different mind sets.
One is the everyday personal documentary kind that I use to capture situations and things to share with family and friends in Germany. So, this kind of photography is very important for me to stay connected. I take these kinds of photographs almost every day.
And then there is the arty kind of photography that feels right, is more fulfilling, no matter if I just look at images or create them myself. To create though, I need to get into that special mind set and lose myself in it. Here I can try to see the world from unusual angles. Here I can play with ideas, explore new techniques, try out new things and fail, unleash emotions …
What is one of your favorite exhibitions shown by the Griffin?
Hands down, the Prifti show.
But since Paula already claimed that one, and there were SO MANY incredible shows, I want to point out (1) “Voice of the Woods” by Koichiro Kurita. Koichiro loaded a large format camera and all the equipment that goes with it into a canoe and paddled out in the woods where he captured Calotype negatives of which he made the final albumen or salted paper prints. There is an incredible amount of skill, time and dedication that goes into creating each frame. You cannot rush. You cannot afford mistakes – at least not many.
There was rich poetry in these images and the show as a whole.
And also (2) “Horace and Agnes”, the other end of the spectrum, which was so much fun. It was fun diving into the world of this wonderful ‘odd couple’. Of course it was fun looking at the photos. But it was also fun reading their stories, meeting their friends, and dancing to the accordion music at the opening
What has been the most eye opening part of our time of physical distancing?
I am surprised how easy it was for me in the beginning. I work with computers and it really doesn’t matter where I am as long as I have internet access and a phone. My family and many of my friends lives in Germany, so I had been using Skype, WhatsApp and the plain old phone all along for years and was already comfortable with those tools. Cutting away 2+ hours in traffic every day has given me precious time to enjoy my backyard and its inhabitants every day.
That said, after a couple of months, while it is technically still easy to stay connected, not being able to be around people is getting to me. This again is surprising to me, given how I didn’t have any problems in the beginning.
What is your favorite place to escape to in nature…mountains? beach? woods? and why?
I love kayaking on the ocean. I love the bobbing on the waves, the light, the air, the critters, the mystery, the salt, …. But for me, ocean kayaking is for day trips on non-thunderstormy summer days.
On a daily basis, my nature getaway is my backyard. I grab a cup of coffee in the morning, my journal and ‘the nut bag’ with three jars filled with different kinds of nuts/seeds. I sit in my comfy Adirondack chair and watch the light as the sun moves thru the trees and hits different parts of the garden: The bird bath (when birds splash in it backlit drops of water fly in all directions), sunlight sparkling in rain drops on the grass, or ice crystals (depending on the season) …this is very Zen.
And then there are all the critters that come for the nuts and seeds. When a squirrel I have known for 4 years sits in the chair next to mine munching on a peanut, or when a bright red cardinal come flying straight at me as I turn around the corner of my house and sit in a tree two feet away, or when a chipmunk holds my fingertips with her muddy little hands while she loads her cheeks with sunflower seeds … that’s a good start to any day.
What is one book, song, or other visual obsession you have at the moment?
I have been reading the books of Peter Wohlleben “The Hidden life of trees”, “The Inner Life of Animals”, “The Secret Wisdom of Nature”, and the fourth book that has not yet been published in English. He compiles scientific findings and his own observations to inspire people to re-connect with nature.
As far as visual obsessions are concerned, there is a FB group called “Alternative photographic processes” which is another good way to start the day. Photographs posted here are different from the flood of pictures that is out there drowning you. These are salt prints, cyanotypes, pinhole images from people all over the world. There are some incredible photographers out there that you have never heard of, they are not famous, not accomplished, some are ‘just’ experimenting with unusual processes that you didn’t even know existed.
Here is an example from this page. It is a photograph printed by the sun on the pedal of a Poppy flower. (Photo by Fenia Kotsopoulou – she writes: “UMEDHA” – Petalotype on Papaver Rhoeas. The third successful print directly on the petal of a flower from my garden (and the most successful until now; fortunately, just saved it, at the last moment from a sudden rain). Time exposure: approximately 8 days (unstable British weather).