Ed Heckerman
Sending Out The Crow
2011 - 2013
The word “photography” means to mark with light. The Japanese version is “Satsuei,” to take a shadow. I have always spoken about photography in terms of celebrating light and praising shadows. The more I think about it, however, all contemporary photographic processes make a white sheet of paper darker. This is sort of the opposite of a dream, in which we begin by closing our eyes, and slip into a state where the light of our own awareness manifests bizarre narratives out of the darkness.

We never see more than two pages of a book bound in a western codex at once. The book as a whole is drawn from our memory. The personal associations and projections that arise through the image sequence in real time may develop into a contemplative visual poem or reverie without fixed meaning. Photography as an index of the ephemeral reminds us that the world is like a dream.

The stone woman sleeps. I can only show this. I do not wish to tell you what to think or feel. These images do not attempt to tell a story, but rather show and string together little bits and pieces of the ordinary sublime, within the larger project of picturing the unnoticed. Sometimes I write, like now, to help clarify my thoughts and bring them into sharper focus. I think photography can do something similar if you don’t have a fixed agenda, and you start with the humble attitude that you don’t know it all already. This sets up the possibility of discovery through exploring, just walking with one’s camera with mindfulness. There needs to be a degree of faith in the prospect that something will be found, something will be revealed either externally, internally, or ideally in a non-dual sense. There is always the risk that nothing will be found, but on a deeper level the real art is in the process of looking.

The title “Sending Out The Crow,” is derived from a line in Robert Bly’s "A Little Book On The Human Shadow." At the beginning he writes:

"We notice that when sunlight hits the body, the body turns bright, but it throws a shadow, which is dark. The brighter the light, the darker the shadow. Each of us has some part of our personality that is hidden from us. Parents, and teachers in general, urge us to develop the light side of the personality – move into well-lit subjects such as mathematics and geometry – and to become successful. The dark part then becomes starved. What do we do then? We send out a crow.”

Outwardly, he is referring to the legends of Utnapishtim and Noah, both of whom sent a crow from their arks to look for dry land. The inner meaning of sending out a crow is to use art practice as an activity to get used to uncertainty and deal with the unknown, and to use the discipline of meditation to dig up the dirt of one’s own faults and bring them to light. If the crow returns with mud on its feet, then our practices has flown beyond the academic. Although “Sending Out The Crow” is born out of the sensibility of revealing hidden intentions, my project is not particularly aligned with the manifestos of surrealism that celebrated the erotic unconscious. I have no manifesto, but I do have something to offer, and I have chosen to show it rather than say it.

I am well aware that the subject matter depicted within this book is inconsistent. Nevertheless, I have tried to generate continuity and harmony through other means. Each suite of images of related theme and atmosphere, transitions into other groups through symbolism and formal relationships.

The middle part of Sending Out the Crow is an extension of an earlier, unfinished series I began several years ago called "The Trees We Live With." The book "A Pattern Language" by the architect Christopher Alexander inspired me. He writes that there is a “complex interactive symbiosis between trees and people.” When they are regarded as precious, planted in special places and cared for carefully, they create social spaces. Trees, like this project, live half above and half below the ground. I have read that trees in dreams often stand for the wholeness of personality. I don’t know much about that, but I invite you to enjoy my dream and let it grow and intertwine with your own.


This was produced as a one of a kind book, hand sewn and printed on Niyodo White Kozo paper. . All the photographs were taken with a Fujifilm GF670 medium format camera.