Commentary by Barbara Bullock-Wilson

Seen conventionally, this is a photograph of a furrowed tide pool at sunset. A few anemones and clustered limpets adhere to the still, watery grooves. Torn pieces of seaweed lie scattered among the rocks. Both the shriveling plants and glistening stains of receding water measure the passage of time. This is the scene the camera recorded on film the day my father made his exposure and it is what appears when you bring up the alternate picture on this page.

As lovely a photograph as this is, it is not Point Lobos Tide Pools, 1972. In the image Dad created, there is no familiar tide pool. The rounded rocks and channels of water have disappeared. In their place are valleys marked by smooth, glossy, semitransparent plateaus. The pieces of seaweed, once distinctly recognizable, are also transfigured and they now appear as convoluted forms strangely embedded in the landscape. Changed, too, are the water stains that covered the convex surfaces of the rocks. Once signs of evaporating waters, they now seem to signify an overflow seeping downward from the plateaus, saturating the concave surfaces below. Even the limpets and anemones seem different. Appearing in a strange, unexpected context, their ordinary forms become otherworldly.

How did Dad start with a relatively commonplace scene and create an image of a new and intriguing landscape, a world that challenges established views of how things are or "should" be? Saying he did so by turning the photograph upside-down would be true, but it wouldn't tell the whole story. While I was growing up, Dad liked to remind me that what we see is real but only on the particular levels at which we've developed our sense of seeing. He believed that each of us is capable of expanding our reality, our awareness and understanding of things, by developing new ways of perceiving.

He himself was committed to this process of change and growth throughout his creative journey. And as he grew, he continually adapted his craft not only to share what he was learning, but also to encourage himself and others to make new discoveries.

For Dad, seeing upside-down became a valuable tool, a means to shed habitual relationships and awaken his senses to fresh possibilities. That it was such a simple and accessible act delighted him.

Dad once wrote, "I love the medium of photography for it gives me the power, with its unique realism, to go beyond conventional ways of seeing and understanding and say, 'This is real, too.'

"In a photograph, if I am able to evoke not alone a sense of the reality of the surface physical world, but also a sense of the reality of existence that lies mysteriously and invisibly beneath its surface, I feel I have succeeded. At their best, photographs as symbols not only serve to help illuminate some of the darkness of the unknown, they also serve to lessen the fears that too often accompany the journeys from the known to the unknown."

The zeal to move beyond is what truly underlies the making of Point Lobos Tide Pools, 1972. While the title connects us to the known, the image itself takes us into new realms. Evoking the presence of mystery, it stirs us to wonder.

~ Barbara Bullock-Wilson