A pile of dirt on a farmer’s land. That’s all it was, really. I drove by it and I saw it. I cannot recall the exact day, except that it was somewhere in the fall. Time passed by, the seasons changed. During the winter it was bare, though there were days when it was covered in a blanket of snow. I would still occasionally drive by it and see it. In the spring it woke gently to the warmth of the sun. I would drive by it. And I would see it.
Then came the summer, and it grew lush and full. One Sunday morning, while in a sentimental mood, I didn’t simply drive by it. I stopped, I walked onto the land and approached it. And then I photographed it. Two weeks later I drove by the farmer’s land again. To my surprise the pile of dirt was gone.
Two years later I read a thirty year old essay by Japanese photographer Yutaka Takanashi, The “Landscape” Appears. In it he discusses a haiku by the poet Matsuo Basho, using it as a metaphor for landscape photography. ‘What is up to the photographer to do with the “landscape”‘, Takanashi writes, ‘is to encounter it, destroy it, rebuild it, and then release it.’ Therein lies the pursuit of a new “landscape”, the landscape of the photograph, the landscape of the haiku. One that not only relates an experience, but is an experience. Like Basho’s haiku. Maybe that is what The hill that wasn’t is about. I had seen the landscape many times, but it was not until that summer morning that I encountered it. And by photographing it and turning it into this book, I destroyed it, rebuilt it and released it.