Open Portal (Damascus Road) and
Open Window (Jacobs Dream)
This dual photograph came about in a rather circuitous manner, which I will not go into here, but can be found in a previous post. The initial recording of the photograph was mostly unremarkable. I do remember, however, being impressed by the artificial "canyon-like" space between the two limestone walls of Mission San Jose's sanctuary and convento. The walls are fairly close together, built of limestone blocks, and the roof is simply the sky above– reminiscent of "The Window," a unique slot canyon in Big Bend National Park.
I first composed a vertical panoramic shot toward the west, and later realigned from the same location to compose another vertical shot to the east. At the time, there was no attempt to connect one image with the other.
The sky overhead was mostly a high, thin layer of nearly homogeneous cloud cover, with some blue showing through directly above. The thin layer allowed some direct sunlight to reach the surface of the earth, so shadows were clearly cast, but they were somewhat diffused and softened by the cloud cover.
© Bill Brockmeier,
All rights reserved.
© Bill Brockmeier,
All rights reserved.
The view directly up into the sky displays strong geometric symmetry between the two images. The precision of the symmetry is all that more amazing when I realize that I had made no such attempt at symmetry when I composed them separately. The symmetry of the compositions continues downward from the large lit space at the top, to the middle and somewhat smaller open spaces, and finally to the smallest bits of sky below that. These three open views to the sky in each image are likewise separated in the compositions by corresponding spans of rock.
The colors revealed in the sky in the two images, however, are asymmetrically flipped: OPEN PORTAL shows the bit of blue at the top, while OPEN WINDOW registers the blue toward the bottom. This bit of asymmetry causes the eye's interest to circulate in a clockwise pattern when viewing from one image to the other. And while the shadows on the ground in OPEN PORTAL continue to sweep upward in a continuous arc with the tops of the walls overhead, the situation is distinctly different in OPEN WINDOW. Here, the primitive wooden beam/ladder is quite out of place with the arc formed by the windows and the opening overhead. The beam, instead, seems to be trying to emulate the direction of the arc in the other image.
Beyond the purely geometric aspect of the dual composition, there is a richer and more significant parallel between these images. The image toward the east I have called OPEN WINDOW for obvious reasons. I have subtitled it JACOB'S DREAM. The primitive, undecorated subject takes one back to the dawn of history– maybe even pre-history. The crudeness of the hand-hewn beam adds to the primeval atmosphere. Mystery abounds in this image: the disparate shapes of the stacked windows, the unknown purpose of the beam, and why is it stacked there?
I have come to see that this image reminds me of the story of Jacob's fleeing from his brother Esau in Canaan. On his way to a place he'd never been, he finally tired and rested in the wilderness. Lying on the open ground, he placed his head on a rock for a pillow, and dreamt a dream of cosmic proportions. He saw the heavens opened, and messengers of God ascending and descending on a ladder– a stairway extending from the earthly plane on which he lived and slept to the heights of God's abode in unapproachable light above. Though he was fleeing for his life, he was reminded of God's promise to both him and his progeny. God's Invitation was extended to Jacob to enter into and receive the promise.
The image toward the west I have called OPEN PORTAL. Although there are numerous parallels and congruencies between this view and the other, the change in subject, perspective, and sense is dramatic. Where the eastern view was primitive and mystical in nature, this view is refined and accessible. The crudeness of the rough hewn beam in OPEN WINDOW is countered here by the finely conceived and crafted stone carving of the portal. The geometric symmetry between the two images is echoed by the two palms in terracotta pots flanking the portal. Overall, this setting, while still old by present standards, seems much closer to our own century than the view to the east.
This image recalls for me another "Invitation." In an era later than Jacob's by nearly two millennia, another young man was flying like the wind from his own city to a foreign place. This Saul, however, was not in flight for fear of his own life, but he was driven by his determination to hunt and chase down others to the point of their destruction. But his plan was interrupted by a vision as overwhelming as Jacob's had been.
Fully awake and filled with violent intention, he was knocked from his mount by a surrounding light that was far brighter than the noonday sun. The intensity of the brightness and the realization of the sad truth of his own life not only instantly struck him blind, but profoundly changed the course of his life. The LORD of Life, Whose followers this Saul had sought to destroy, had sought even Saul, and invited him to follow Him and receive His promise.
These two Invitations, though separated by a score of centuries, are, yet, fundamentally the same. And this Creator of all life continues to extend His Invitation even to this present age. He still reveals Himself through dreams, even violent visions if necessary to capture our attention, and calls us to receive the priceless promise he offers.