Fallen objects tend to have negative associations, but is that necessary? A tree falls and begins a new life as a support for moss, fungi, insects and other life forms. Fruit falls from the tree and you pick it up; maybe you take a bite. A ship falls to the bottom of the sea and becomes a coral reef, sugar falls to the bottom of your cup, you stir it, and sip.
And what is this notion of a fall from grace? How about a graceful fall and a new beginning?
1. My scarf falls at my feet at an art gallery. I photograph it. Manhattan; October, 2017.
2. A Camel cigarette pack fell to the ground (intentionally or not?) and was crushed by a passing truck. I photograph it. I have come to this obscure corner of a busy city to explore an old railroad trestle but I’m distracted by the artifact at my feet – the fading colors, the roughened texture, the surprise of printed matter on the ground. Bellevue, Washington; September, 2017.
3. Leaves fell, it rained, and the tannins leached out of them, staining the new concrete. Now leaf shadows ghost the sidewalk. I photograph it. Kirkland, Washington; October, 2016.
4. A pear falls to the ground. I photograph it. In the mid-1980s I worked sporadically for a New York catering company, The Perfect Pear. The owner, Stuart, made memorable sesame chicken. I wonder if this pear gradually decomposed, like my memories from the 80s are doing, or if someone took it home and made it into preserves. Washington State University Research Center, Mt. Vernon, Washington; September, 2018.
5. Trees fall into the lake and drift into a cove. Snow falls. I photograph it. Fidalgo Island, Washington; March, 2019.
6. A 64-year-old ship fell to the bottom of a channel and is being recovered. I photograph it. After a violent, mid-January windstorm tore the boat from its mooring at Lovric’s Shipyard, it drifted along the bottom of the channel for a half mile and came to rest near a busy dock. The state officials who monitor safety hazards of derelict vessels contracted with a diving and reclamation crew to raise the ship. The 197-ton MV Chilkat was the first car ferry in the Alaska Marine Highway System, built in 1957, when Alaska was still a US territory. It was a rough ride (people called it the “Vomit Comet”) but it could load and unload vehicles straight onto a beach, using its bow ramp like landing craft from WWII. After serving the Alaska ferry system for many years, the ship found other lives: there were years of scallop farming, tuna trawling and Christmas tree deliveries. Recently the MV Chilcat was in storage at Lovric’s. A local family was trying to raise money to get it seaworthy again, but now it may finally be scrapped. Anacortes, Washington; January, 2021.
7. Rain falls. A man celebrates the sudden deluge with a handstand. I photograph it. My son is in the background, giving two thumbs up. He’s just returned from fighting the Taliban in Marjah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, as part of the 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines. His friend, Sergeant Sean T. Callahan, was killed in combat three months before their unit was to return home. My son was thrilled to be back in New York, but struggled with guilt. West side, New York, New York; July, 2011.
8. A dead goose has fallen to the ground. Overnight, a delicate layer of frost coated the bird. I photograph it. Chances are good that it fell out of the sky after being shot because in this particular field, people hunt ducks and geese. The bird won’t make a meal for a human, but beings of one kind or another will soon take the goose to its next stage of life. Duvall, Washington; January, 2013.
9. The groom falls to the ground during a raucous wedding shoot. I photograph it. This fall from three graces will be remembered with smiles. Battery Park, New York, New York; October, 2017.
10. My shoes look happy amongst discarded bits and pieces that fell onto the brick road by the flower market. I photograph them. Most of the market’s flower sellers are first and second generation Hmong immigrants from Laos. The older Hmong once were farmers in the Laotian hills. During the Vietnam war they aided the American CIA against the Communists. Afterward, to escape retaliation, many of them fled into the jungle or entered Thai refugee camps. Eventually some made their way to the Pacific Northwest. They have adapted to different ways and different weather, growing flowers instead of food in the green fields outside Seattle. The growers drive their flowers to Pike Place Market, where city residents and tourists are happy to buy pretty bouquets of seasonal flowers wrapped in big white paper cones. The pandemic has changed business practices but the farmers have adapted (or should I say pivoted?) and have found alternative marketplaces. Seattle, Washington; April, 2016.
11. Cherry blossoms fall to the sidewalk. I photograph them. When I bring the image to life half a world away and months later, the detail in the dandelion leaves makes me think of Albrecht Durer’s “The Large Piece of Turf.” Durer included a dandelion in the painting that he completed in Germany in 1503. Apparently, the dandelion (der Löwenzahn) flourished in Nuremberg in the sixteenth century just as it was flourishing the day I took this picture, 500-odd years later. Dandelions flourish in my own yard too, 5000 miles from that sidewalk. Amsterdam, Netherlands; April 2019.
12. A yellow work glove has fallen onto the concrete in an alley. I photograph it. I have stumbled across it while exploring downtown Seattle one summer day and I’m drawn to the unexpected pop of color. This fallen object was probably forgotten by its owner long ago, but it lives on in my archives. Maybe it will linger a while in your mind, too. Seattle, Washington; August, 2013.
13. Fallen fruit, barely bruised, litters the ground at a botanical garden. I photograph it. People may be hungry a few miles from here, but this fruit will remain where it fell – as if arranged by an artist – until a gardener scoops it up. I suppose it will become compost. Chinese Scholar’s Garden, Staten Island, New York; July, 2011.
14. Broken glass from an old greenhouse has fallen onto the concrete floor. I photograph it. I stumbled on this abandoned greenhouse in the early 1980s while picking flowers in a nearby field for the altar at the Zen Community of New York, where I lived. A year or so later I found out that my father’s first real job was right here, at the Boyce Thompson Institute. He had skipped two grades in school and was too young to go to college so he worked for a year at the institute, a 15 mile commute from his family’s modest Brooklyn apartment. He made $75/month doing research on plant hormones. The abandoned field where I picked flowers 50 years later may have held descendants of that work. When I saw it, the institute’s facility was in ruins but later, the historic building was restored, spiffed up and turned into a business/retail complex. Someone must have cleaned up all the broken glass. The field is gone. Yonkers, New York; April, 2010.
15. Glitter has fallen onto the boardwalk at a nature preserve. I photograph it. Why is there glitter at a nature preserve? Because photographers use the boardwalk as a location for shooting wedding and family photos. It may be pretty but it won’t do the environment any favors. Kirkland, Washington; May, 2018.
16. A tree appears to have fallen half-way down an embankment, then secured a foothold by rooting into the ground even as it dangles precariously. I photograph it. The tree is an integral part of its environment, surely supporting life even as it appears to be dead. Cape Perpetua, Oregon; September, 2019.
17. Apples and leaves have fallen under a tree wrapped in a net, part of a research project to determine best practices for growing fruit trees. I photograph it. My neighbor asked if I knew how to prune the young fruit trees that grow between our houses. I said that I didn’t know the exact technique and he should check with the people at the research center. I don’t think he ever did. He fell one night, harder than the apples, onto the pavement beside his car in the dead of night. It was cold. When we found him the next morning the car door was still open, his keys were in his hand, his mouth barely open. He did not come back to life, though we tried. He did not get back up. Like everything else in life falling is temporary, a transition between states of being, some of which we mourn, some of which we celebrate. Mount Vernon,Washington; September, 2018.
18. A sign has fallen down at a nature park. I photograph it. I walk past it. Will entering here be a new beginning? Mercer Slough, Bellevue, Washington; June, 2017.