One can’t help but conjure images of the steadfast, the eternal, and the permanent while considering these powerful, but familiar words. Rock and Stone. Place the words rock and stone in the context their symbolism invokes and we start to feel foolish for the many times we choose not to notice their beauty, their majesty, or their tranquility. This article is part of a series dedicated to inform and inspire.
The various descriptive words we come up with are enough to testify to the ancient relationship we humans have with these long-lasting elements of the physical world. The Stone Age, we say, as if we are attempting to reference a long ago time devoid of comfort. In actuality, rocks and stones were the material of early tools and weapons; the material that enabled humans to be more productive and more efficient.
Dense, heavy boulders, chiseled to size, became foundation stones of great architectural structures. Large slabs, intricately designed, became altars. The architects of the Statues of Easter Island, 887 stone heads embodying great clan ancestors, surely must have labored endlessly to achieve such a lasting feat. It’s not hard to understand why stone was so often chosen for these endeavors. It is a material of integrity, it patiently bears loads, and its sturdy make up allows it to weather well. To this day, 887 heads still gaze out over the land of their clans, and serve as architectural masterpieces of power and permanence.
Though most of us may never have the chance to physically be in the presence of such remarkable stone architecture, photography can be the medium that allows us the same joy and awe. Fine art photography, whether looked at on the screen, in books and publications, or hanging on your walls to decorate your residential or commercial interiors, can take us to new places and remind us of how rich in beauty our world is.
The longevity of structures made of rock and stone often means that they are associated with the divine and the eternal. Homes are not only built for the living, but for the dead as well. Stone formations often symbolize the passage from one life to the next. A stone archway or a stone carved boat mark this spirit world journey and stand as vessels unconcerned with time as life cycles around them from earth to eternity. In Germany, the spirit of the dead remains in the tombstone, while many African beliefs hold to the idea that stones carry the spirit of an ancestor. Stonehenge, one of the more commonly known stone structures, has long been perceived as an ancient burial site. Though mystery still surrounds this circular site of standing stones, it is impossible to deny the fact that the architects of Stonehenge chose giant slabs of rock to mark their sacred place.
Many cultures and religions use stone to symbolize the divine. This is unsurprising considering that meteors fall from the sky and rock exists and endures in places humans cannot. Things unknown and hard to understand easily invoke a fantastical mood. Thus, it’s not hard to imagine Zeus reigning from high up in the mountains, close enough to the sky to gather clouds and throw thunderbolts. Or Mercury, the traveler, who had the luxury of venturing into all worlds much like the stone whose home appears to be anywhere and everywhere. Photography brings mystery to life and through photography; our imaginations find a place to play.
In a Christian church you may hear a congregation belting out “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand” joyfully proclaiming the solidarity of their God through a metaphor of a reliable God. You might even hear a sermon on “The Rock of Ages,” the God of eternity who is the beginning and the end.
In many cases individuals are simply striving for divine wisdom. And again, it seems only natural to associate wisdom with a substance that is so permanent; a substance that endures age through age. We collectively strive to make the good things like love, patience, compassion and hard work, last and in doing so, we mimic these steadfast rocks and stones that have seen it all and remain standing.
Rocks are not only paired with the divine or with voyages into eternity. In our everyday life rocks represent struggles to overcome and perspectives to be gained. Many myths, fables and stories use rocks to symbolize the obstacles a character must overcome to complete their quest. These rocks are immovable and often jagged structures and one must employ perseverance if they mean to climb up and over. But once over, you realize the hard work gave you strength, much like the obstacle you just overcame.
If you have ever scaled a mountain then you know the climb can offer perspective. The journey of overcoming struggle after struggle, of testing yourself against the very physical substance that gives meaning to the word endurance tends to provide a refreshing new point of view.
The awe that descends at the sight of a mountain range is hard to wave off. The sheer size of the rocks and stones can make quick work of pride. Their ancient presence serves to both put us in our place as well as bring joy. Photographs often serve to enhance these powerful emotional experiences. They, like the very images they capture, stand as lasting reminders of that perfect day, that perfect feeling or that life altering experience.
The joy is simple delight; quiet moments marveling in the tranquility of streams of water bouncing over pebbles. The excitement of seeing a jewel catch and hold the light. Or, the mesmerizing quality that stones have of taking on both cold and heat. It isn’t any wonder that Native Americans viewed rocks as the bones of Mother Earth just like most of us are not surprised to see faces or animals in natural stone formations.
Steadfast wisdom, enduring perseverance and joyful awe; these are the affects that nature has on us. Yet, somehow we seem to forget this. We walk idly by the very things that remind us of the everlasting and the reliable. We forget that it is the physical world that allows us to survive and thrive. Consider how you might infuse your day to day life with reminders of the building blocks of your life. Photographs that draw out your most precious emotions have the power to change your day. Sometimes it is from the mouth of children that we must be reminded of these lessons. As my almost seven year old daughter Stella puts it, “You can just pick up stones and rocks, feel the love, and be happy.”
Marian Kraus Photography is a Chicago area based professional architectural photographer, multi media artist and purveyor of fine art photography who has been consistently delivering compelling architectural photography to clients ranging from architects, advertising agencies, construction companies, home builders, corporations, real estate companies and the like since 1999. Additionally, Marian Kraus Photography’ s nature and architecture fine art photographs can be found in a growing number of corporate and private art collections.
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