Andrea Dawson

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Airborne I, 2021 Airborne I, 2021
IG: andreadawsonphoto
Moreland Hills, OH
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To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.

What do we focus our attention on? This question has been at the front of my mind in a year of anxiety and uncertainty about the world. The words of Mary Oliver resonate even more with me in this context. In a rare interview, she described her childhood in Northeast Ohio: “I don’t know why I had such an affinity for the natural world, except that it was available to me… those first connections were made with the natural world, rather than with the social world.” For many, including myself, I have turned to the natural world as a place of relief and safety as our social world has been ever limited, yet I have struggled to pay attention as much as I would like.

When I do venture into the Northeast Ohio woods with my camera, I am drawn to the patterns created by colors, lines and light in nature. From late fall to spring, I am fascinated by trees and their interconnected branches that reach out to create unlimited patterns against the sky. The leaves, with their delicate relationships to each other and the world around them, reach out to me. Overlapping patterns of colors in leaves and grass become nature’s abstract art.

During these moments, I can relate to Mary Oliver as she stated eloquently, “When things are going well you know, the walk does not get rapid or get anywhere.” Even when I’m on the same path or in the same woods day after day, the pattern and play of light and shadow are ever-changing. So if I am paying attention, time slows, and I find the opportunity to capture this feeling with my camera.

I chose to participate in the Advanced Mentorship for my fourth year as a way to recapture my focus and attention. As distractions increased, I needed to find that feeling again, when time slows. Thank you to Alison and Sue and my fellow co-mentorship students for creating a group that provided structure, common ground, inspiration and motivation.

To be clear, this attention thing is something I am still working on. When I am distracted by my phone, the news or the next zoom meeting, I will try to remember these words by Mary Oliver, “Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” I would add “Photograph it.” 


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All images are limited editions of 20, unless otherwise noted in caption
Printed on Hahnemuhle William Turner German Etching paper,
with archival inks