Tiny Immensity 3 © L.Aviva Diamond


L.Aviva Diamond was a 2022 Rfotofolio Selection for outstanding work. We are happy to share her work on Rfotofolio.

Would you please tell us about yourself?

When I was a child, I used to delight in the way light sparkled on the dust floating through the air. You only saw it when the light shone in a special way, but I knew it was always there – barely hidden magic – and I’d look for it. That’s still how I process the world: seeing the wonder that floats just under the surface of everyday things – feeling the sacred mysteries of the universe in the day-to-day.

I’ve been meditating for nearly 40 years, and much of my work stems from my meditations. During Covid-19, I couldn’t get out to photograph nature, so I began to examine what was in my refrigerator, pantry and neighborhood instead. And I discovered galaxies in carrot slices and moonlit landscapes in the skin of an onion. The magic is always there if we look deeply enough.

I began taking photos as a teenager, inspired by the works of Minor White and Paul Klee. It was my passion. I developed my own film, printed my work myself, and exulted in the joys of light and shadow. But my parents said they’d never speak to me again if I became an artist, so I switched to reporting – writing and shooting for The Miami Herald, winning a local Emmy at a tv station in St. Louis and finally becoming a network correspondent for ABC News. I later established a successful corporate media training business. But my first love has always been art, and in 2014 – after both of my parents had passed – I finally started doing art full-time and exhibiting my work.

Who has had an influence on your creative process?

Everyone and everything, but probably meditation most of all. I was a very serious young child and remember asking my teenaged babysitters what happens when we die, why we’re alive and how we know what God is. Even before I formally started meditating as an adult, I would sit on my bed, talk to the invisible beings I hoped were listening, and then sit quietly hoping to feel and understand. My work is still about that deep desire to experience the mysteries and to share them.

On a more practical level, I adored looking at the photos of Walker Evans, Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange, Edward Steichen, Gordon Parks, André Kertész, Imogen Cunningham, Diane Arbus, Wynn Bullock, Brett Weston, Henri Cartier-Bresson…the list goes on and on. And I loved painters and printmakers – El Greco, Rembrandt, Munch, Gauguin, Seurat, Dürer, van Eyck, Van Gogh, Botticelli, Magritte, Matisse, Hopper, Dufy and Paul Klee. In college, I discovered the work of Minor White and was blown away. He translated the ambiguity and questions I loved into physical form in ways that touched my soul.

Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has inspired you.

I saw Minor White’s, “Moon and Wall Encrustation, Pultneyville, NY, 1964” my senior year in college, and it has stayed in my heart for all these decades. The beauty of line, of light and shadow, the layers of meaning, the ambiguity. It’s exquisite.

Is there an image that you wish you would have taken and can you still see it?

Paul Caponigro’s,”Running White Deer, County Wicklow, Ireland”.
The edge of the forest is magical. I grew up with acres of woods in back of my house. And Caponigro’s deer – perhaps real, perhaps from dreams or myth…blurred and ghostly – are deeply resonant for me.

How do you work through times when nothing seems to work?

When I’m having a really tough time, I usually head for the ocean or the woods. Or a museum. Or a concert hall. Or a bathtub.
Baroque adagios help. Bach always helps. Jazz helps. Singing helps. Seeing art helps.
Trees help. And water is a blessing.

What I do not do is try to blast through the clog with stubborn determination. That just doesn’t work. Stepping away for a bit does. Over the years I have trained myself to have faith that, if I can manage to be gentle and to wait, things will open.

What part of image-making do you find the most rewarding?

I love every part of image-making. Photography is how I process the world; it is an expression of how I see and how I feel. One of the true joys of walking around with a camera is that you really pay attention to everything, to the line of a friend’s cheek or the texture of a creek, to the richness of shadow, to luminosity, to every nuance and expression and moment. It is the best way I know to become totally immersed in the present and to really see. But that’s just the beginning. It’s like composing a basic tune in jazz – nice, but then you need to create the arrangement. There’s joy in taking an initial image, but I also want to work in Photoshop or other software to make what people see on paper as close as possible to what was in my heart.

Please tell us about your process and the work you submitted to the Rfotofolio Call.

I search for the magic and meaning that lie just under the surface of everyday things. The more you look, the more you see reflections of the universal in the mundane. The tree is in the leaf is in the tree. There are stars and galaxies in dewdrops on insect webs. The vastness of the universe is contained in each of its parts; we are simultaneously tiny and unfathomably huge. That is the vision at the heart of my series, “Tiny Immensity”. It stems from about forty years of meditation…and from a need to find hope and beauty in these times of uncertainty and despair. I truly do believe that the sacred mysteries of the universe are shining just beneath the surface – that harmony lies there, quietly singing, if only we look and listen deeply.

What tools have you found essential in the making of your work?

I’m more intuitive than technical. Of course I love beautiful glass as much as the next person, but for me the seeing is more important than the equipment. So sometimes I’m willing to schlep a good camera and heavy lenses, and sometimes I just shoot with my cellphone. In the old days, I got luminosity with careful use of potassium ferricyanide in the darkroom. These days, I do a lot of fiddling in Photoshop or phone apps.

Is there something in photography that you would like to try in the future?

Making books, salt prints, albumen prints, wet collodion, infrared, combining my drawing and painting with photography, and on and on. I still feel like a little kid and want to learn everything and experiment with everything.

How does your art affect the way you see the world?

My art opens me. It definitely effects the way I see the world, and the way that I see the world also effects my art. It opens me to light and reminds me that without darkness and shadow, the light would have no value. It makes me more patient. It teaches me to look for the moment when people’s souls shine through their faces.

The more I shoot, the more hope I have that people will learn to truly see, that they will feel how deeply connected we all are and appreciate the beauty that surrounds and flows through us. There is light everywhere. We just have to look.

What’s on the horizon?

I would very much like to have a solo show of “Tiny Immensity”. There are now several dozen pieces in this series, ranging from very large immersive works to tiny ones. I’ve also been feeling an urge to create a book from this body of work.

To learn more about the work of L.Aviva Diamond please click on her name.

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