Freeman Patterson opened up his home for a small group of photographers attending the Canadian Camera Conference this summer. We were given the immense privilege of reveling in the visual feast of the lush meadows and forest paths at Shamper’s Bluff, NB.
Having followed Freeman’s teachings and musings on photography and visual design for a number of years, I was thrilled at the opportunity to explore a little of the paradise he has so lovingly created. Shamper’s Bluff is not a place of classical beauty with perfectly sculpted flowerbeds, water features and pebbled paths. Instead, Freeman has created a haven for birds, butterflies, insects, and other creatures to call home. It is a place for him to breathe in the fresh air, enjoy the view of the river and islands in the distance, find solitude from his hectic schedule, and contemplate, while sitting on one of the benches or chairs he has peppered throughout his property.
We drove along the winding road and up into his long driveway. I was filled with anticipation of what I would not only see but what I would feel. I sat on a bench on Freeman’s back porch and drank in the view of mist on the river and acres and acres of meadows where birds are free to sing and the wind can dance in your hair. I cleared my mind preparing to be open to what would capture my attention. Others headed off in many directions to explore on their own. I stood for a while and then went to the car to get my camera gear.
Slowly, I wandered a little in each direction catching glimpses of tiny white flowers peeking through the undergrowth, shreds of paper birch bark laying amongst pine needles, and little snails slowly making their way to somewhere. My senses opened up and I was ready to take in the clumps of brilliant daisies, purple, magenta, and white lupines, vibrant, tall hollyhocks, brilliant green ferns, pink and white columbine, and azaleas that called out for my attention. I knew I had to take my time in order to make the photographs that reflected how I felt and what I saw.
We were given free range to wander, explore and make images to our heart’s content. It was threatening to rain when we set off early in the morning. Slowly, the clouds parted as if by magic. By noon, the mist lifted and bright sunshine filled the sky. We had to keep checking our exposures while shadows played and changed as frequently as our apertures and shutter speeds.
Freeman has always been wise and generous in helping us find our way to creative expression through photography. Each of us in unique and, whether reading his books or listening to him speak, we all take away what inspires us. Making images is a journey of discovery, challenges, and moments of immense pleasure.
An old, framed, quote by the German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, hangs on one wall in his house. It reads, “Love consists of this: that two solitudes protect, and touch, and greet each other.” Freeman does that with his love for teaching, sharing, mankind, living creatures, and the earth.
Even though Freeman wasn’t able to be with us at Shamper’s Bluff, he was there inspiring me every step of the way. I made some images that will remind me of him and how willingly and openly he shares what he knows. He gives me the courage to try different ways of seeing and tell stories through my art.
Freeman gave us an exceptional gift when he welcomed us into his private sanctuary. The hours passed much too quickly and we drove back to Fredericton hoping that the images we made captured the beautiful spirit of Shamper’s Bluff.
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