home from Miraval

I returned home last Saturday from my week-long artist-in-residence program at the Miraval Arizona Resort. It was quite the trip, and something I am still processing, so you aren’t going to get any deep thoughts from my time in the desert, at least not yet!

Yesterday I finally started unpacking. First the camera equipment. After a few hours, I finally got my studio pretty much reassembled. It’s amazing to think that I hauled that equipment around all week, setting it up and breaking it down each day. Next, I began to carefully unpack my box of treasures. While walking around the blazing-hot grounds of Miraval, I constantly collected subjects to photograph — twigs, seeds, pods, leaves, etc.. Whenever we’d go for a walk, I’d always fall behind, dropping down to my knees to examine a small plant on the side of the path, then taking off my hat (probably not smart in the 105° heat) to gently carry them home.

Desert plants are amazing things. First of all, they have the best names: pineleaf milkweed, cassia, rain lily, cat claw acacia, snakeweed, hopbush, spectacle pod, monks pepper leaf (thanks to Miraval’s horticulturalist Corey for helping me put a name to everything). These plants have evolved to flourish in such harsh conditions. I loved how the pods and flowers at the ends of their branches and leaves would bake dry in the heat and fall to the ground, shattering to scatter the seeds. This makes them wonderfully complex things to photograph, but at the same time, challenging things to transport across the country without damaging.

My wife and I were really careful about packing these things up, wrapping everything in tissue borrowed from the giftshop, and packed in a box in our carryon luggage. I was nervous because these super-dried plants are so brittle and fragile. But as I unfolded the tissue and untangled the twigs and leaves, I was relieved to find that everything arrived home safely. Now to photograph these, and hopefully create a new series of work inspired by my time at Miraval.


I see the makings of some great images. The bottom image is already pretty terrific – like one of those timeless botanical images (which I just heard were one of the trends in home decor!).

What strikes me as interesting about this treasure trove of yours is the contrasts it brings up. On one hand it’s pure simpleness, and to find such joy in nature’s most basic bounty is a gift and a blessing that we all should be able to enjoy, but few are lucky enough to allow themselves to do so.

Yet, the way in which you find joy in this most-basic bounty involves a lot of very expensive equipment that requires extensive technical knowledge to use, and a honed artistic sense to guide that use…. three things which most people have none of.

And yet the result of all this complex and highly specialized processing are images that are even more basic than the treasure trove you started with.

I don’t know that this means anything — for all I know, I just derived the definition of “art” — but coming from your followup post http://blog.danielsroka.com/work-in-progress/abstract-of-a-mesquite-seed-pod.htm the contrasts struck me, and I wanted to mention it.

Thank you Jeffrey, I appreciate your thoughts. I believe that all the technology, processing, and technical skill are just ways to refine the thoughts and ideas I’ve always had. They just allow me to better communicate and share a perspective I’ve always seem to have had.