Jeffers Project

The most effective actions are those conceived in the wisdom of clarity.  – Sylvia Boorstein

Robinson Jeffers was a poet who worked on the central California coast from the 1920s through the 1950s.  His poetry often emphasized ecological themes, addressing the wholeness of earth and that man is part of the ecosystem, rather than separate from it.  I first became aware of Jeffers’ poetry from a book titled “Not Man Apart” that combined Jeffers’ poetry with the work of several famous photographers also working on the California coast at the same time, including Ansel Adams, Edward and Cole Weston, Philip Hyde, William Garnett, Cedric Wright, Steve Crouch and others.

Jeffers writes of man’s destruction of the earth:

…remember that civilization is a transient sickness.

…remember that civilization is a transient sickness.

Through wars and corruptions the house will fall.

Through wars and corruptions the house will fall.









Mourning the broken balance, the hopeless prostration
of the earth
Under man’s hands and their minds,
The beautiful places killed like rabbits to make a

But also of the earth’s beauty:

…but to fling
Rainbows over the rain…
And beauty above the moon, and secret rainbows
On the domes of deep sea-shells,
Not even the weeds to multiply without blossom
Nor the birds without music…
Look how beautiful are all the things that He does. His
Is the beauty of things.

I find Jeffers’ poetry moving and insightful, and often very well-informed technically and scientifically; I connect with his subjects and his metaphor.  I am starting a new project to illustrate verses from Jeffers’ short poems with my images.  The images will perhaps not address the environmental/ecological issues as broadly as did the Sierra Club in Not Man Apart, but I hope that the combination of images and text will be more compelling than either of them separately.  I have organized approximately 75 verses I wish to illustrate into the following categories:  Man Destroying Earth, Beauty, Gulls, Ocean, Metaphor, and “everything else.”

In some ways I have been considering a project of this type for a long time.  I have over 50 pages of quotes, and you  may have noticed that I start most blog entries with a quote. In this case, part of the intent is to focus on a specific project and better develop a personal style and vision, by going out with purpose rather randomly taking (rather than making) images that catch my attention.  I need to do more making and less taking.

These images are very much exploratory — proof of concept images, so I would greatly appreciate any comments that might help me to improve the project.

Old stone building covered in part with ivy and forest growing around it.

Now the spoiler has come …It has all time.
It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve.
— Robinson Jeffers in “Man Destroying Earth”

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