One of the wonderful things about the road trip are the random scenes that one comes across. Those unexpected moments and chance encounters which create a lasting impression or, one hopes, a lasting photograph. Two spectacular examples of this would be Joel Sternfeld’s ‘Exhausted Renegade Elephant, Woodland, Washington’ (1979) and ‘McLean, Virgina’ (1978), both from American Prospects (discussed below).
Exhausted Renegade Elephant, Woodland, Washington © Joel Sternfeld, 1979
McLean, Virgina © Joel Sternfeld, 1978
There’s an interesting article by Liz Jobey on The Guardian website called ‘Photographer Joel Sternfeld: close encounters’, from October 17 2008, which you can read here.
In her article, Jobey comments on these two pictures- “The first shows an elephant collapsed in the middle of a suburban highway with a truck, a small group of onlookers and the sheriff in attendance. The other depicts a farmer’s market, with a stack of orange pumpkins out front; in the background a house is on fire with flames pouring from its roof. The flames are exactly the same shade of orange as the pumpkins. A customer standing casually at the market with a pumpkin under one arm turns out to be a fireman, bagging a pumpkin or two while his colleagues tackle the blaze. In the present photographic climate, such pictures might have been assumed to be fictions, but in Sternfeld’s case they were repayment for his diligence; chance encounters in the strange and disturbing reality of American life.”
I’m putting myself on the line a bit here but, while not having quite the same fortune as Sternfeld, I did enjoy a series of chance encounters during the journey which resulted in some interesting pictures. In one case, while driving to Stonehenge in Wiltshire, we passed by the Avebury Stone Circle. On turning the corner of the road we were confronted with a very surreal scene: about a dozen men and women performing Amerta Movement on and around the rocks that make up the stone circle. I nearly crashed the motorhome on seeing it and after gaining my composure, pulled over and dashed out with my camera to try and capture the scene.
Here is one of the frames I took (unfortunately the size of reproduction here doesn’t do it justice) –
The photograph shows a number of people doing a series of Amerta moves around the stones, while others lay in the grass with their legs in the air. There is a ring of clothes and bags to the left of the picture. The exercices were part of a ‘Human Nature Ritual Art’ workshop being led by Suprapto Suyodarmo, from Indonesia, who created the Amerta Movement. He also features in the background of the photograph.
Amerta Movement is the original name of specific type of work with body based on natural movement and meditation. He takes advantages from simple elements of movement like: sitting, swimming, walking and recumbent posture. He uses two forms of meditation. One of them it is so called Sumarah, based on relaxation of body, mind and emotions, undergoing to movement and intuition of body. The second it is Vipasana during which man is concentrated over thoughts, emotions and impressions flowing from his inside. This is a type of deeper and more conscious meditation.