Grounded, of sky, bird and tree
Inundated with images of protest, anger, hate, and the chaos of our particular American moment, viewing Amy Lowey’s graphic images of trees—most inhabited by a single bird—made me think of haiku, traditional Japanese poems consisting of three lines and seventeen syllables. Within that simple structure is a formality that is able to communicate complex and sometimes profound ideas. Haiku, like Lowey’s photographs, are a meditation and as the 2020 election approaches, the ability to pause and engage in our own awareness is vital.
In concert with a world coping with Covid-19, Lowey is caretaker to a husband with a rare form of dementia and other catastrophic health issues. The woods became her refuge, the camera her heart, and the images are her poems expressing the importance of nature to our mental health.
Staring at her photographs—and that is what I found myself doing, resting on each of them singularly—lowered my heart rate and took me out of the normal anxiety of daily events. They provided a resting place for my mind, contemplating the imperfect perfection of nature. The birds became metaphors for larger questions of home, anchoring the image with a focal point, as each seems to be pondering whether to stay, or fly away. In one image, a bird appears to be suspended in air, neither flying or perching, simply there, in mid-air, a state I often experience as our world spins out of order.
These birds become guardian spirits, they are talismans of hope caged inside elegant images; hold them in your heart before they fly away. – Billy Howard
I have been working on a long-term body of work entitled, “The Archive of Longing” which draws on the natural world as a source for solace. My photographic relationship to the woods over the past 5 years has been affirming, though my reasons for going there have been dark.
My husband has a rare form of dementia as well as health issues, including heart failure. Before this pandemic, each day before he woke, I would spend the early hours wandering the woods with my camera. Over time, the woods have sustained me.
When Covid-19 emerged as a threat, because of my husband’s high-risk status, we were relegated to lock-down. The wooded wandering with my camera became a thing of the past. In a four-month period, I only left the house twice. During lock-down, for weeks I stood in my backyard, staring across my neighbor’s fence. Then one day I heard the birds.
My photographs of the woods, trees, birds, sky and ground, contemplate difficulties like the loss of intimacy, the loss of freedom, and the subsequent search for hopefulness. My photographs metaphorically and poetically intertwine light and darkness, revisiting the theme of nature as vital to our lives.
I bring knowledge to the photobook arts, as well as a passionate curiosity and drive to learn more. I have been making photo books with each smaller series within “The Archive of Longing.” I am very excited for this opportunity to further challenge myself and to work on one unified work. I am continually evolving in my photography practice, after a graduate degree in photography in 2015. I am especially determined to succeed professionally as an artist and photobook maker – and believe this opportunity will give me some of the tools to move things to the next level.
I have been working on “The Archive of Longing” for almost six years and this work will find its true form when realized as a book. While I am well versed in photobook making I am excited to learn more, to be exposed to focused discussions on the photobook to apply it to this future book. I am an engaged student and committed artist and, while on lock-down during this pandemic, have ample time and energy to commit to this exclusive purpose.
The smaller series within this work are like chapters in a novel, with subtly shifting perspectives that touch on the fluctuations of body and mind at home. Their meaning will be even more profound as a unified whole (book). The photos convey a difficult subject matter poetically and, because of this, translate to a large audience. This deep and nuanced story is one that must be told, the story of mental and physical illness, and the tenacity and grace of the human spirit. This series, titled Grounded, of sky, bird and tree is one chapter in a long-term exploration about the loyalty of the heart and the absolute importance of nature in our lives. I believe the attack on our environment during the past 3.5 years will be the most difficult to right again.
Bio: Amy Lowey worked as a freelance photojournalist for 10 years for NJN. In 2015, she completed an MFA in photography from The University of Hartford’s limited-residency program. Her photographs of the woods contemplate difficulties like the loss of intimacy, the loss of freedom, and the subsequent search for hopefulness. The invisible story behind the images includes her husband’s dementia and subsequent deterioration. Her photographs poetically and metaphorically intertwine light and darkness, revisiting the theme of nature as a vital part of our lives.
BIO: In 2017, Lowey’s work was juried into the competitive Review Santa Fe at CENTER, where her work was reviewed by Jonathan Blaustein and was featured on his blog, A Photo Editor, in his Best Work I Saw at Review Santa Fe, Part 2. Her work has also been featured on the blogs of LA Photo Curator and Don’t Take Pictures.
She has exhibited at The Joseloff Gallery in West Hartford, CT, Five Myles Gallery, Brooklyn, NY,
I photographed the entire series on my Canon EOS 5D Mark II with my Canon EF300mm lens. And I hand held that lens because I was shooting almost directly up half the time! I tell people my nose and forehead are my tripod.