I took the above photograph as a one off. That piece of wire. It’s fragility. It’s story. Someone aiding it’s continuation in keeping it ‘whole’? Keeping the fence going and alive? Not having the experience or skill to re-weld a piece of metal in there to make it whole again. But, at least having a go at mending it’s fragility’s. Or someone mending it’s previous stability in a makeshift, weak and non attentive way in order to keep the fence there to protect their own needs? Never pursued the seeking out of other interesting fences, railings or walls. The above photograph? It came from my seeing a Paul Strand photograph of a white fence with two buildings behind it. The feeling I got from Paul Strand’s photograph was initially difficult to put my finger on. For a few days, maybe weeks, I began to look at fences and their stories. But, not usually with my camera at hand.
And so………When I saw his iconic ‘The White Fence, Port Kent, New York’ black and white photograph I was interested in fence ideology. Keeping out. Keeping in. Protection. Boundaries. Ownership. The internet provides much in discussing the origins, evolution and how we perceive space and why our need to show our ‘this belongs to us’ and therefore ‘do not cross’ or ‘await permission’ (normally granted with provision of an inherent Gate or Gateway). Stories can be imagined of what lay beyond. Fences on the dunes, in valleys, on mountains, in suburbia, in worldwide places that beg the question ‘Why there?’ Along promenades, cliff edges, in zoos, to keep people safe from sheer drops or safe from the lions and tigers. I never thought of the fences themselves. Just what lay in front or beyond. Turmoil in activity or gentleness in the calm. The fence, witness to a never ending beauty in the gentleness surrounding. Or looking upon a quagmire of chaos and fraught related occurrences. The luck of the draw. But a fence can’t ‘pick up sticks’ and escape. It stays there and carries on it’s role and purpose. Maybe that is to be the role of some people too. Are individuals ever present or flitting seekers? If people are the former they equate to inherent fences in people’s lives. The latter? They are the spaces in front and beyond. Can you be both fence and space? Difficult. I should imagine that that involves enlightenment and self harmony.
But, back to the fence. In their use and in their reality, we are using them in order to make sense of and section off our own world. They are a bridge in many respects. They bridge gaps. The unknown factors beyond. They guide. The guidance to stop, take stock, go there or don’t. The sections of experiences beyond to be considered for staying put or carrying on. In those ‘sections’ is life’s activity. The fences themselves. We built them. We raised them up to regulate and control our space and belongings. Whether to protect (keeping ‘Out’). Or keep others safe from the harm that exists within and beyond (keeping danger isolated and therefore ‘In’). So. If we have built up these fences over many lifetimes……What of the fences themselves? What of their strengths or fragility’s and frailties? They witness lightness, darkness and are on the edge of either calm and love or a conundrum of blurred imaginings and chaos. An approaching darkness from who knows what is existing out there. Or the light in the distance that we all seek to give hope and harmony.
So……..The imagery of the actual fence and it’s own story. The fences that have deteriorated from the efforts of being there over countless years and how they look themselves over countless years of providing protection. Their weakness and fragility. Their worn down expression in exhibit of their countenance. Standing fast, but eventually growing old and tired. Painted or mended from time to time by others to give the sustenance and the ability to carry on. But sometimes the attention in time going by is too, too far in between days, weeks, months, years. And it is the attentions given by others that aid the ability to survive the hardships. And without the kind and thoughtful attentions of others? Eventually…….simply falling apart. Collapsing in a heap of rot or rust. Or at the mercy of an incoming wind so strong they are simply swept away. Or under the weight of snow, earth, landslides of enormous burden that they collapse with the pressure from it all. But through it all, if they can remain steadfast they can still see the beauty that exists out there. And provide a platform of security that allows others to see the world from a different standpoint.
Think gently and kindly of fences. You know they’re there. They’ve always been there. They’re still out there……waiting and watching…..and usually…..existing and protecting just outside your door.