What Would You Be If You Weren't What You Are?

One evening at a dinner party in Berkely, someone asked: What you would be if you weren't what you are? Without skipping a beat, I responded, "A naturalist." Where that came from, I'm not quite sure. I'd never actually verbalized that before. But in a way, it made perfect sense.

Wasp nest.

Wasp nest.

I collect things. I've collected things since I was a kid. At first, it was butterflies, rocks and flowers. Later it was handcrafted pottery in earthy colors and textures, which we still use on a daily basis. And for years, I've picked up random things I find on daily walks with the dog: feathers, seedpods, cones, bird nests, and shells and sharks' teeth (when I'm at the beach). I enjoy pressing the flowers and leaves, filling jars with nuts and seeds, and simply placing natural items around a room. Our walls are dotted in botanical prints and our shelves are well stocked with books on gardening and nature.

Hornet's nest.

Hornet's nest.

Spurred by allergies, I recently decided to photograph some of these collected items and toss those that had accumulated a bit too much dust. Figuring out how to arrange them for a photograph is always a creative challenge. I like to keep it simple and to somehow capture their sense of gesture or design--whether symmetric or asymmetric. I'm really just getting started with this project, but posted a portfolio of some early images. I'll continue to update it as the project expands.

Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)

Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)

I may not be a naturalist, but I do enjoy nature and collect both natural objects and photographs of nature, much as a naturalist might.