WHAT IS THE SOURCE OF YOUR IMAGES?
DREAMLAND AND PROMPTS
An Labarre, Bonnie and Jody, Orange County, NC
© October 13, 1974 Caroline Hickman Vaughan BT
This image came from a dream. The woman in the photograph was in my ninth grade English class. We later went to different colleges. Years later I dreamed I saw her standing on the far side of a lake with her white horse and dog, tall trees behind her and early morning fog rising from the lake. I was so intrigued with the image that I telephoned her the next evening and told her I had a dream about her and would she consider being in a photograph that I wanted to make. When she said yes, I told her I would need a white horse, a lake or pond and fog and asked where she lived. She told me she lived in Orange County in a brick home overlooking a pond. The first time I showed up at her house at 6:45 am there was no fog, so she and her friend invited me to breakfast and I decided to do some weather research on what created fog and when I had the right variables I would call the night before.
The second time we shot for twenty minutes while I made fifteen exposures and made stupid whining horse noises to try to get the horse to look at me, telling her that she and the dog could not move during the entire shooting time as exposures were F45 for 1/2 second. One of the fifteen exposures everyone was in sharp focus. The negatives were developed in Pyro. When I took her a print and hoped she would be pleased all she said was, Her ears are back. Not knowing horse language, I didn't realize at the time that this was not a good thing as it meant the horse was not relaxed. To me it made her ears more prominent. I remember it was very cold out and the day before the evening temperature was mild for December 13, and a 20 degree differential was necessary to produce fog. I learned early that what pleased me did not always please my friends or clients. Imogen Cunningham gave me good advice. When she made a porrait of someone she never let them see it in her presence, she always mailed it and so dismissed the possibility of this encounter. She often sent a different print than the one they ordered. A doctor ordered Two Callas, but she thought since he was a doctor he would enjoy a pregnant nude and sent him that instead. She was an Aries, made her decisions and stuck by them. When I met her at 88 she had just finished photographing a wedding and I was impressed how active she was.
The image of An Labarre, Bonnie and Jody, Orange County became known as The White Horse. I decided to enter it into a contest at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh which did not accept photography, but had categories for drawing, sculpture and paintings. In several weeks I received a letter and invitation to a dinner. The three panel judges categorized my entry as a work In Line Of Sight, and had unanimously chosen it as the winner. The photograph was immediately purchased for the prize money of $75 and ascensioned into the permanent collection. The following year they opened a new category for the contest: Photography. A professor from NC State University wrote to ask to purchase it for the student center. I sold it for $100. At that time they had no formal art gallery but professors were allowed to purchase art for their private offices which eventualy grew into the Gallery of Art & Design in the Talley Cener.
The White Horse was published inside of Camera Magazine, Lucernce, Switzerland in 1975, in the catalogue of The Amon Carter Photography Collection in 1993. and in Borrowed Time by Duke Press in 1996. It was also reproduced in the ARTS NC State magazine in 2013, with an article Why the gregg? which explained: She decided she wanted to give something of real significance while she was still alive. As a North Carolina native and because NC State is affordable, meaning that students without a lot of means can receive an excellent education. Caroline sees herself as pursuing equality with her gift, by enabling bright and deserving students to learn from firsthand encounters with original art.
When Charlotte Vestal Brown arrived at NC State University she created a new gallery named The North Carolina Gallery of Art & Design, later named the Gregg Museum of Art & Design after a generous donation from the Gregg family. The art collection had grown over the years. Plans to move the art to the former Chancellor's home and start a building campaign to house their immense collection began. At fifty, I began to think about a repository for my work and talked with Roger Manley and Charlotte who said they would be delighted to accept my lifetime work at my death. In 2015, I asked Roger, the new Director, if they could take the entire collection early. I spent a year labeling each of 100 boxes of prints and writing a note about its contents. The Gregg sent Roger and two assistant curators to my home and carefully wrapped each box, loaded it into their red truck called The Tomato.
The bequest was the largest gift of my lifetime. Additionally I made a major gift to support their building campaign and named the Caroline Hickman Vaughan Photographic Archive, where my negatives and photographs would be housed in perpetuity.
Okefenokee Swamp, GA © 1974 Caroline Hickman Vaughan BT, ACM
This image came from a dream that I had in Tallahassee, Florida, knowing the next day we would be driving to the Okefenokee Swamp, which in Indian means Land of the Trembling Earth. In my dream there were twelve white snakes which I found very seductive rather than terrifying. I remember on the drive to the swamp turning over in my mind, the idea of white snakes and how I could not figure out what my subconscious was trying to tell me. We took the usual guided tour through the swamp and I was disappointed to learn that the earth was a peat bog, meaning there was no chance of putting a tripod and view camera on it and photographing anything in the water. As I was walking to the car I glanced back at the channel the boat had missed and saw the image above. The ranger came over and apologized to me, saying what a mess this was and how sorry he was that my trip had occurred at the time that they had to poison the waterlilies as they were too profusely taking over the channel. The boat cannot run here, it gets choked down. If you had come yesterday the waterlilies would be right side up. But because your trip was today they are upside down in the water, buried, the leaves unseen in the dark water and only the connecting vines, usually on the bottom are on the top. I thanked the man for his explanation and said, oh no, really, I'm quite interested in both sides of everything, smiling, and remembering my dream.
In creative writing dreams can also inform your writing. Often teachers will offer prompts or beginning narrative phrases or paragraphs to help jump start your writing. In photography, prompts are found in the landscape when or where you are drawn magnetically to the light of a particular place which makes it specific and authentic, or to your core form, a shape which always seduces you without your awareness. Mine is an S curve. Minor White used an astrologist to help view our first assignments. She wrote out our astrological star charts based on our sun signs, our moon signs and how we presented to others which might be another sign.
She also helped us see in every image we made the same repeating pattern and called it our core form and cautioned us to broaden our view so our channel of seeing would not be so narrow.
In creating this image I used a 4x5 camera with two different types of film, plus x and infared. They see the spectrum of light differently. The model had to hold still through several rounds of film shooting which is a feat in itself, without having minnows biting you. When finished, I took both negatives, sandwhiched them together and turned them upside down to create a dream state of objects that were nearby but so different.
Gemini Dream, Durham County, © 1979 Caroline Hickman Vaughan
You may use props in your images to create metaphors in photographic images such as the broken doll's mouth and grouged out eyes. In psychological terms, this may represent a secret one cannot reveal, a tragic loss, incest, harsh words that one cannot share. A photograph, like a good poem, is a mirror held up to anyone's eyes and reflects as much about the viewer or reader as it does about the creator. We all draw on our own unique experience when viewing art whether written or physical image, and no two views are exactly the same. In this sense, looking at art, is a no fault insurance plan. There are no wrong answers, only people who fail to look deeply into themselves to find the answers.
Radio Silence, Polaroid Type 55 Film, Polaroid Collection
© 1972, Caroline Hickman Vaughan
Mythical Spirit Deer © 2019 Caroline Hickman Vaughan
In dreams some of our most powerful images occur. The process of discovering what our dreams, our subconscious minds, are trying to convey to us is a unique path that each of us must define. I keep a diary by my bed. If I awaken in the night from a frightful dream I try to write down as much as I can remember. If I awaken in the morning but had a pleasant dream I still write down notes to assist me in figuring out what triggered the dream or what I am trying to tell myself.
Several times after my father died at age 97, I was having a hard time and felt out of touch with people. I remembered in a dream one night a weight on one side of the bed as if someone sat down to watch me sleep. There was no actual evidence, mussed sheets or a depression in the bed, but I remembered once when father had suffered from heatstroke while selling cars at the dealership in the hot summer sun and was taken away by ambulance. He returned home and after some rest, I went up to see how he felt. I sat on the edge of his bed. I started talking to him and just listened.
Before I knew it, he was talking to me, selling me a car. No longer the shy quiet father, but a smooth, confident and entergetic voice came out of him. Realizing he had no idea I was the one in the room with him I kept pace with his sale's pitch which was really informing, me, his imaginary client about the whole mechanical workings of the car, the slant six engine, the push button automatic gears that required no clutch, the Plymouth Valiant. Although he had been promoted to Vice-President of Leasing, he knew most of his salary would come from convincing the buyer to finance with his dealer. My father told them they would save considerable money by going to a bank and taking out a car loan than working through him. He was honest and loved cars, yet he wanted people to have the best knowledge to make their own decisions.
When I made this image of a deer appearing in a landscape that felt spiritual to me, it reminded me of when visitations from father became a regular part of my life when I needed him, just as when he was delirious, he needed to sell me a car, even an imaginary one.