January 26th, 2020
I have been asked to explain why my site is called ‘5th Gate Photography’ so it seems it is time to tell the story.
When I was still working in a job that required me to go to the office, I would make a ritual of going home at the end of the day. The ritual was comprised of recognizing a series of way points on the drive home, it went like this:
The end of the day has arrived and I am leaving the office. As I am about to get into my car I pause for a moment and take a deep breath, then I get into the car and loosen my tie. I’m off, I maneuver out of the parking lot and head for the roads that will lead me home. As I pass the last urban stoplight I remove my tie. Now what was a named urban street is now US Highway 285, southbound. I can already begin to feel relief from corporate stress. Soon I will come to the 1st Gate.
The 1st Gate is a gap in the hogback that forms a low elevation prelude to the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. This uplifted ridge of ancient seabed, known as the Morrison Formation, can be found in many places along the eastern face of the Rockies. At this particular place Turkey Creek has cut a gap in the ridge that allows for westward travel. It is here that I leave behind almost all of the urban traffic. The only remaining suburbanites that live beyond this point are those that live in the town of Morrison, which is just over the ridge to the right in this photo. After passing through this gate much of the urban energy will have been filtered out.
Now I can begin to feel the energy of the mountains. Another mile or so up the road and I come to the 2nd Gate. Just before the 2nd Gate the folks that live in Morrison will turn off 285 at the Highway 8 exit. As I pass through the 2nd Gate the canyon narrows considerably and becomes much more narrow. The road twists and turns as it follows the watercourse of Turkey Creek. Soon I will pass the last reminder of urban life - the speed trap that the Morrison town police typically set up near mile marker 248. As I pass that I leave behind all things urban the peaceful energy of the mountains begins to seep into my bones.
I drive a couple more miles and I come to the 3rd Gate, the entrance to Parmalee Gulch. Here I enter a two lane road, still paved but much more narrow and much more filled with sharp curves. I have been going uphill since I left the office and I am now at an elevation of 6800 feet above sea level. Down in the flatlands signs inform you of the population of the hamlet that you are entering, up here you are made aware of the elevation. Parmalee Gulch is named after the first settler who came to this area in the 1860s. John Parmalee had many businesses in this area in those days including the Denver and Turkey Creek Wagon Road Company which cut the first toll road up Turkey Creek Canyon. That old toll road is now US Highway 285.
Now I am near home and I can really feel the difference in the atmosphere. Vehicles travel at a maximum speed of about 30 mile per hour on this road, a much more relaxed approach to travel. I can feel the pull of my home as I enter the gulch, but I have one task to finish before I get home. I drive through a couple of turns and I get to the Post Office where I pick up my mail. Mail is not delivered to homes up here, we all have post office boxes. Consequently, everyone comes down to the Post Office on a regular basis. It’s a kind of rendezvous point for the valley and I frequently meet my friends and neighbors there as I am getting my mail. It affords a good opportunity for a little conversation and good cheer.
I back out of the parking area at the Post Office and point my car uphill. The road is all turns now and about three quarters of a mile up from the Post Office I pass the Indian Hills Community Center. This old building was once the one room school house for all of the children in the valley. Another half a mile up the road and I come to the 4th Gate. This is Giant Gulch Road. It once went over Bear Mountain to Evergreen but now it is less than one half mile long. Fifty years ago or thereabouts it was lightly paved and some of that pavement can still be seen, especially here at the entrance of Giant Gulch where the road is almost two lanes wide. I turn onto Giant Gulch Road and soon onto Taos Road. Very little pavement has survived the years on Taos Road and it is only one lane wide. As I get near my home the pavement is gone entirely, only packed dirt remains.
Now I am home, I have reached the 5th Gate, the gate in front of my home. It is a place where all is quiet and the only sounds to be heard are the songs of the birds and the whispering of the wind through the trees. It is my sanctuary, my temple in the pines.
January 26th, 2020
I have just published a new website, www.5thGateStore.com, to be used as the marketplace for my images. I came to this decision after a drawn out and somewhat tortuous internal struggle over what my definition of ‘art’ was. Since first hearing James Joyce’s definition of art as that which produces ‘aesthetic arrest’, I fixed upon that as my reason for producing my photographs. But I still had two conflicting positions within my own mind as to what that actually meant where the rubber meets the road.
On the one hand, I held that art must maintain its integrity, it must be true to itself, no compromises. This view allowed me to feel that I was making art for my own reasons and that the impact on the viewer was either of secondary importance or of no importance at all.
On the other hand, Joyce’s words about aesthetic arrest meant that I had to consider the reaction of the viewer as being an equally important component of the ‘art’ as was the physical object itself. What good, in other words, was my ‘art’ if no one else was looking at it and being transported to that place where, as Joyce put it, “The mind is arrested and raised above desire and loathing.”
The first of these propositions leads to what I consider to be the horribly corrupted high end art market where well known art ‘collectors’ buy and sell works of art for their ability to greatly appreciate in value all the while claiming that their motivations are to conserve and protect the works and the integrity of the artists. These artworks are then squirreled away in climate controlled vaults or hung on the walls of billionaire mansions where few, if any, people ever see them. What value, then, do these artworks hold? Do they raise the minds of their few viewers above desire and loathing? I think not.
The practical result of me holding to the first proposition was that I had a tendency to not want my images to be put on public display, or if they were, for me to control every aspect of that display. Where an image was displayed, how it was displayed, and how it was interpreted all had to be under my direction. This, of course, was just my ego talking, but the end result was that I was doing to my own work exactly what the billionaire collectors were doing to other peoples work.
The second proposition means, at its heart, that art must be presented and viewed as widely as possible. People must see your work and they must react to it. This democratic idea of art for the masses was very appealing to me.
But this idea can lead to over exposure at the hands of another kind of sociopathic billionaire: the ones who have no concept of art at all and are simply looking to make a buck selling something to anyone with loose change in their pockets. Imagine here the Mona Lisa printed on the back of a toilet seat lid and you will get the idea of the kind of vulgarization of art that I am talking about.
So it was that I had these two conflicting positions within my mind: 1; that art should be ‘protected’ and kept away from the Philistines and 2; that art must be accessible to everyone or it is not art.
How to reconcile these incompatible propositions? In the end it occurred to me that all of the great art museums of the world have gift shops that one passes through on their way out of the museum. Within these shops one may buy a variety of products with the great works of Monet, Leonardo, Van Gogh, or Ansel Adams reproduced on them. Indeed, the very bag that will hold your purchases from these shops will be printed with a reproduction of some great work of art. This does not vulgarize the art, instead it makes it available and accessible to everyone. When people take these products home they will be afforded the opportunity on a recurring basis to experience aesthetic arrest whenever they look at that product they bought at the museum gift shop. And it is in those moments that the true value of the artwork is realized.
So I have reconciled my internal conflict over the display of my art. I have launched a website that is somewhat akin to a museum gift shop, where you, the viewer of my art, may purchase a selection of products imprinted with my images. You may also, of course, purchase museum grade framed prints if you wish to get the full benefit of my images. It is my hope that making this move to get my photographs out into the world will benefit us all.