Camera and Flask
The Photography of Steven Gray
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Storytelling

Camera and Flask // Steven Gray: Photographer. Storyteller. Artistic journalism and storytelling around the globe. Based in Pensacola, Florida.

Wizards of the Southern Woods, Part I

April 3rd, 2016

In literature and legend, the forest is deeply symbolic. It is the unknown. The subconscious. Shadowed tranquility wrapped around nature’s raw force.

From ancient texts to modern interpretations: a journey into the woods will either destroy you or enlighten you.

The prospect of enlightenment fascinates me.

In the 13th century German romance of the same name, Parzival goes to Trevrizent’s remote hermitage for 14 days of penance and enlightenment as part of his quest for the Holy Grail.

In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Shakespeare’s fairies caper in the woods and play with human destines.

In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Merry and Pippin’s escape into Fangorn Forest threatens to end their lives until they are taken by the Ents to the reborn White Wizard. •
The forest is where the boundary between the visceral and the ineffable grows thin. Consciousness will either expand there, or end completely.

Now, consider the American South. Historically and currently, it is where food and raw materials are grown. Pop culture tries to tell us that it is the abode of bumpkins, rednecks, illiteracy and poverty.

To be fair, the South does have those issues. But the danger is in the dismissal.

But even in our worst places, you are likely to emerge into a glade and meet remarkable people. They might not immediately stand out, but they can be found if you look.

They are wise. They are experienced. They are soulful. They are musical. They are magical.

They are the wizards of the southern woods.

I’m putting together some stories about a few people I’ve met. More coming soon. @ Tate's Hell State Forest

Steven Gray