Raven Mavens, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California, 2007
This is one of those intuitive incongruous ideas that kept getting better and better. I was trying to photograph a raven sitting on the stone wall in front of Zabriskie’s famous landmark, the Manley Beacon, when I noticed my shadow kept getting longer as I approached. I thought my shadow would create an incongruous foreground and included it in the composition. Suddenly another raven flew into the frame, and just as he did so, pbase photographer Tim May, who was shooting with me on this trip to Death Valley, walked up next to me and began shooting his own shadow and his own raven. And there it was – the incongruity of twin shadows and twin ravens, with the golden morning light on the Manley Beacon as a background. As we were shooting this picture I also noticed another incongruity – the rocky mosaic in the wall is echoed by the patchwork of colors on the Manley Beacon.
Body Language, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, 2007
Shooting the dawn at Zabriskie Point is a photographic ritual. Yet even though they are all shooting the same subject here, each of these photographers uses unique body language. By shooting them from behind, I abstract the scene and remove identities, emphasizing only how they stand before their cameras. Some bend, others hunch, and one struggles to adjust her tripod before the moment of light she is shooting vanishes forever. The scene is incongruous because none of these photographers realize that they, too, have become the subjects of a picture. They are too engrossed in their own images to even turn around. For non-photographers, the incongruity of this image rests in the fact that all six people are (in a bitter cold wind, no less) making what appears to be the same picture of the same rock at the same time.
Sculpture, Darwin, California, 2007
Darwin is a borderline ghost town just outside of Death Valley National Park’s western entrance. In the 1870s, more than 3,000 silver miners lived here. Today, its population is less than 50. I was amazed to see this classical sculpture standing in the deeply shadowed window of a time worn house. The sculpture seems both out of place and out of time – an incongruous sight in a place remembered mainly for its history of gunfights and fires. The figure seems to be wondering how he wound up in a place such as this.
Prefers tea, Marrakesh, Morocco, 2006
This café patron is engulfed in Coca-Cola signage. Yet he has ordered a pot of tea. The visual incongruity comes not only with his choice of beverage – the sheer volume of Coca-Cola’s advertising presence in this café is overwhelming in scale as well. The man seems to ignore it all, including, for the moment anyway, his tea. His thoughts are apparently elsewhere.
Butchers bench, Essaouira, Morocco, 2006
Six headless sheep, gutted and strung up for display, beckon to customers at the weekly market near Essaouira. To western eyes, such a graphic display at the meat counter is incongruous. Even more incongruous is the subtle inclusion of the people chatting with the butcher in the shadows at left. They take no notice of the grisly display hanging only a few feet away from their noses. Butchers take such carcasses for granted. To mix a metaphor, it’s their bread and butter.
Role Model, Ouarzazate, Morocco, 2006
Two cats, one furry, the other bronze, take the morning sun together on the porch of a metalworking shop in Ouarzazate. The incongruity appears in four dimensions: scale, type of cat, choice of material, and emotional attitude. The cat seems familiar with the lion’s bluster, and takes it all in stride.
Through the wall, Ouirgane, Morocco, 2006
The sight of a tree growing through a brick wall is an incongruous one. This triumph of a work of nature over a work of man is also symbolized by small leaves growing at its base, and the golden glow of the sun around the base of the intrusion.
Cascades d’Ouzoud, Et-Tieta-Ouzoud, Morocco, 2006
The vertical plunge of this waterfall is 328 feet. I waited for a passing tourist to step on to a viewing platform next to the basin that catches this plunge. The explosion of water dwarfs his figure, giving this image thought provoking scale incongruity. He seems almost indifferent to the awesome power of nature.
Mirror image, Marrakesh, Morocco, 2006
I noticed an ornate mirror set up just below a painting of a woman wearing a head covering. I waited for an actual woman with a head covering to pass by, and caught her reflection from behind in the mirror. This image offers a double incongruity – contrasts between the frontal and rear views and painted vs. live women.
Nike man, Meknes, Morocco, 2006
This man, who works on a farm outside of Meknes, probably has little, if any, understanding of the significance of the Nike athletic branding on his hat. It is an incongruous embellishment to western eyes, however – this fellow just does not look the part of an athlete, or even someone who follows international athletics. I am sure he likes the hat, however – it keeps him comfortable on cold winter mornings such as this one was.
Interchangeable faces, Rabat, Morocco, 2006
I spotted this mannequin staring vacantly at nothing in Rabat’s busy old city market. I noticed that a lace hanging from a shoe displayed next to its face created a vertical line between the cheek and temple, and the shadow of that a shoelace created another line across the neck. Seen together, these lines imply that the face could be removable and replaceable. Another face floats among the clothing to its left – almost as if it could be swapped out as a substitute face for this mannequin. The concept of interchangeable faces is an incongruous one, and it can be extended to life itself as a comment on the temporary masks we create to hide behind in our daily lives.
A face in the window, Bodie Historic Park, California, 2006
The rangers who work in the abandoned gold mining town of Bodie in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains bring a touch of warmth to this ghost town’s windswept streets by placing jack-o-lanterns in two of the windows of the Cain Residence, the most elegant of Bodie’s semi-preserved houses. It came as an incongruous shock to see Mr. Cain’s windows come to life again with these illuminated faces. I made this image at dusk, structuring it as a geometrical study, using diagonals, along with repeating horizontals and verticals, to animate this haunted ruin of a house with a touch of the incongruous.