Friday, September 4, 2009

"In Praise of Aging". Photographs by Sandy Wojtal-Weber. Poem by Gerda Lerner.

This beautiful little book might just as well be called "In Praise of Living" because to use Lerner's words it is about "celebrating what is/ what still is..."

Sandy Wojtal-Weber is an accomplished photographer with an instinctive skill in seizing images from the natural world, with tenderness and grace, at just the right moment. It is no surprise to learn that she particularly admires the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson. In this book, her pictures illustrate the lines of Gerda Lerner's poem "In Praise of Aging." Many of the photographs were taken at Parfrey's Glen, in Wisconsin, as well as other far-ranging locations. The two sunflowers were taken from her garden.

Essentially, Lerner's poem is about living life mindfully, with both gravity and joy, in a way that moves us naturally to an acceptance of the end of life. For example, on an early page Lerner writes "On that path, step by step,/we must give up something forever..." Wojtal-Weber's accompanying picture is of a rocky, steep, and difficult climb through heavy woods. At first glance, it might almost signify Gethsemane. Yet the texture of the stones and mossy boulders, the green beauty of the woods, show the indestructable loveliness that accompanies us through hardship.

Wojtal-Weber's pictures are fully true to the object or scene in her lens, and sometimes something more: an homage. The two pages of glorious sunflower budheads--"discovering the pleasure of the modest particular/Growing awareness of purposeful seeing"-- for the first time made me think the words "Powerful! All-seeing!" about a bud. Her color photographs are often sumptuous, her black and white winter scenes impeccable. Although her work is the furthest thing possible from sentimental, the viewer's sense is that she has captured these images with respect and love.

There is a great deal to admire and enjoy here, not least the last picture. It shows a curling green frond, with behind it a huge, veined green leaf and the words "and grace." But perhaps my favorite image of all is of the bird--with fragile limbs and delicate beak, but mighty wings--flying straight up into a storm so threatening it looks like the bottom of the sea:



  1. As a person who sees so much of life through the viewfinder of my camera, I'm definitely going to have to give this book a gander.

    Thanks for bringin' it to my attention.

    By the way - thanks for continuing to read my blog! New readers turn me into a hyper little chihuahua, especially ones who add thoughtful comments such as yours. So again - Gracias!

  2. Mad Hatter,
    Thanks for your kind comment. Your blog is one of my favorites. It's bold, original and perceptive--a definite pleasure to read!