The lens is nothing in itself. It is an instrument. Its whole interest is in how and where it is pointed. It projects down a fall line, into its object of attention, as does an object in gravity’s pull, ‘like a mote in a minster door’.
A river is not a stable object of attention. Setting up to take a photograph of a river many times is to suffer a pull towards something blurry many times.
This pull is a different experience from being drawn to a careful searching-out of all of the details of the scene ahead. Why? The scanning of a river involves resolving choices with respect to a watery subject under the aspects of both time and light. The object of attention is always evanescent. Time exposure and light exposure are there in the moment of the essay’s opening, and rise without assistance to share equal prominence in the photographic addressing of the water.
A river is a volatile fluid. It reveals itself as already abstract and becomes an emulsion of ground and figure, primary and secondary imaged subjects rising and falling. It is a complex suspension, this emulsion. A photographic essay upon a river documents some beguiling ply.
You cannot look at a river, other than momentarily. If you attend for longer than a moment then the river glazes over and it is not a look that you are experiencing but a meditation. The proper noun, Waikato, struggles to overcome the wealth of the abstract noun, river. That is why this river attracts so many similar photographs. There is nothing to look at and everything to see. The moment the shutter races the object of attention reveals once more its low amenability to being caught. It changes state. As the photographing of music, say. This is a river’s complexity, the continuous crossing of pictures of time and light that constitute its body.
Mighty is what gods are. We know about Power. Annual is the cultured mark of time’s passage (and has annal too at its outer edges); Report has about it, in this company, something of repercussion. But again it is River that consolidates the ecclesiastical trace, this sense of Mass said for the space of a year.