Kenneth Gillgren

From "parental therapy" to "the root of the root"

I originally got into photography nearly 30 years ago, by taking pictures of my son’s soccer team – partially therapy, it forced me to behave along the sidelines (I’m not a helpful cheerleader) and partially recognizing and celebrating the roles of each youth on the team, of course, starting with my son. At that point I’d burn through one to two rolls a game and maybe salvage 10 photos. It helped me stay out of the way and still be of some use.

As the boys grew up and "took wing," I just become fascinated by how photography encouraged  me to see differently, notice some things differently and a whole lot more things for the first time, nearly always experiencing some intimation of wonder in the most mundane places. 

There’s a lake near our apartment, and the first bird we saw after moving in was a Great Blue Heron. One shot led to another, and I’ve learned to recognize by name nearly 40 varieties of water fowl and song birds, many by sound as well as sight. All by virtue of exploring even the most familiar ground as if for the first time. And then, sometimes, it happens, as when a leaf gently settles upon the surface of the lake to be  tranformed into a sailboat tracing the breath of the wind.

As I round the corner into my sixth decade, I also recall a pivotal conversation that took place shortly after arriving in Seattle at the end of the last millenium (which is fun to say and write). In the midst of a career counseling converstion, Steve "Habib" Rose, then known as THE master networker and connector of Seattle, observed that I seemed to be able to see to the root of things. 

Having been raised on the poetry of ee cummings, T. S. Elliot, and a hint or Rumi (hey, it was the 60s!), being able to see to the  "root," and more specifically, the "root of the root," has indeed provided the "grounding" for my professional journey over the years, and now suggests a "returning to where we began, and knowing the place for the first time.” 

I now recognize "the place," at the beginning of our exploration, and at the returning, as the wonder that I see and reflect through photography, the "root of the root."


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