Nina Shengold: Book of Days

An Introduction by Mary Kathryn Jablonski

Nina Shengold’s recent book is titled, “Reservoir Year, A Walker’s Book of Days,” and the photographs you see here could be a direct illustration of this. Consider what it means to be the keeper of a book of days; to do any one thing with commitment and attention for 365 days consecutively, as Nina has done and documented. At the midpoint of the year, Nina wrote, “There is life going on every day. We have only to notice.” Poet Mary Oliver might call this Devotion.

Just as Jacqueline Donnelly’s photographs are a meditation, so too you can tell that Nina Shengold’s photographs of New York’s Hudson Valley are part of a mindful practice. Taken together, Nina’s images have a strong sense of place, and this place has long been claimed by artists, musicians and writers. This valley comes complete with the tale of Rip Van Winkle (and a bridge named after him) and the resplendent Olana, home of the Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church, who, it is rumored, made sure in construction that the view from each window was suitable to paint. From writers Washington Irving and Edna St. Vincent Millay to painters Milton Avery and Philip Guston, the Hudson Valley teems with history and the list of creatives is long and grows longer. Pianist David Tudor premiered 4’33”, a three-movement composition by John Cage in 1952 at the Maverick Concert Hall in Woodstock, NY. It was (famously) silent and consisted of only the ambient noise in the environment.

And here in this inspired silence/non-silence, a writer by trade, Nina Shengold walks and sees what many miss, hears with all her senses. I believe it is because Nina is a writer that she can capture the lyric moment in her photographs and imbue them with such intensity. In this way, her images become more like paintings, like tone poems or haiku.

Nina Shengold Artist Statement:

I am a writer and ardent walker who takes a lot of pictures. Photography wakes up my senses and helps me notice the glinting details I walk past every day. I’m drawn to places where elements meet: mountains and sky, forest and water, a fiery sun and dawn frost. I’m a hunter-gatherer of awe.

These Hudson Valley landscapes were taken in all four seasons and every kind of weather, using an iPhone 13. I like the spontaneity of whipping the phone from my pocket and framing a shot in the blink of an eye; I take thousands of pictures and save very few. Sometimes I crave the clarity of an SLR or digital camera, but the iPhone suits my status as a passionate amateur, an ill-used word that has roots in the Latin amare (to love).

I photograph places I love, hoping to catch a flicker of ecstatic light.