On one of his websites, Oozing the Moon, Roth says,
"The 1990s were not a good decade for me, and the events of September 11, 2001 further dampened my spirits. In late November of that year, I was sitting on a log in Reston’s Twin Branches Nature Trail area when, for some reason, I decided to bridge over the log and hang my back and neck over it as I might have done were I a child. As I looked up at the pale sunset sky, it seemed I was actually looking down on a great “cosmic” ocean. I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but with this simple act I was suddenly out of my decade-long semi-funk. The next day I hung over the bank of the nearby Glade Stream and was transported by the “Inverted Mirror World,” as I immediately dubbed it, and the deliciously disorienting state (I call it “proprioceptive ambiguity”) that it induced in me. For the next year, I walked through this area as much as I could and took many inverted photographs, and then in 2003 I started hanging over a public dock at Lake Audubon, while trying to be careful not to make too much of a spectacle of myself.
This childlike act, this self-reminder that a simple change in perspective can render the world wholly different, is embedded in all of his photos. Each photo--from a handheld camera, and without any digital manipulation-- presents a view from the trails and lakes around his home in Reston Virginia that I know I would not have seen, even if I'd been sitting there myself. He discovers creatures on the riverbanks, living beings, sprites or gods. He points his camera at a patch of straw-covered ground and exposes its spirit, shows its face. And that is art.
In the above photo, he uses inversion, the "crop" of the camera's eye, and the water's reflection to show us, well...a Taoist Sage.
Sunlight filters through the leaves, exposing a ghostly presence...
On his (on his Flickr page, he has a collection of these "Riparian Creatures." [Riparian:"of, relating to, or situated on the banks of a river"--apple dictionary]
"Catching the Red Eye"
Four-armed, with beady red eyes, this creature tilts his tall head slightly to give you "the look..."
"I learned that inverted, the sky appears bigger and more beautiful because one sees the concavity better. The vault (or actually “basin,” since it is seen as cosmic ocean) is enhanced by a perception of the horizon, which is not seen in one view if one simply lies on one’s back. At sunset, as color drains from the reflection, it too becomes a cosmic ocean when viewed while sitting fifty feet or so up the embankment—two cosmic oceans facing each other—sky and reflection. High-flying birds seen when inverted are flying fish, but a low-flying bird passing over one’s head at sunset seems to become almost an extension of the eye itself, or a particle/wave projected out from it—much better, to me at least, than seeing such a bird while sitting or standing....What a difference a one eighty makes! Upright it is beautiful, no doubt, but it is still sky and reflection. Whereas upside down faux non-duality supervenes and there is just sky, a little darker on top (formerly reflection), but still just sky."
"Doubled Dogs of Dada Land"
Once he had discovered that there's more than one way to see, he began experimenting with other perceptual adjustments. He not only shares his photographic discoveries with us, but also his methods--his website is like a mine of tools for exploration. Reading his entries prods me to experiment myself:
"I started experimenting with hand positions and movements in front of my eyes and got some very interesting effects. The Greeks' theory about vision was that it was an emanation of tiny particles from the eyes, i.e. the eyes illuminate or project what is seen and are not just passive receivers—not, of course, the modern scientific notion. Sitting in the woods, at a particular time and place, I put my hands in front of my eyes as in “The Hands Observatory” in Rhythm Vision and then gradually pulled them apart and experienced what seemed like an illumination or emanation from my eyes. What happens, of course, is that the eyes do not adjust immediately to the light and so there is slight delay, which manifests as a subtle "emanation" in the front of the visual field. I was also moving my hands a few inches in front of my eyes like a dancer or tai chi practitioner and enjoying the illusion of seeing through them because of binocular vision. I am experimenting with that right now in the house and conclude that it's much more interesting with trees and foliage than with books and walls. Also I think one needs the natural light of the woods rather than the artificial light of a house to experience the "emanation." Another interesting and fun thing to do is to cup the hands in such a way that one is seeing only through a small hole, like taking a picture through a pinhole camera. Things seem both faraway and microscopically close at the same time and then when you pull the hands fully apart you get a little jolt of newness."
"Dots of Light"
"Something fun to do—find a bench or other place to lie in a forest or wooded area. Do tai chi-like movements that seem to interweave the foliage. Then stroke, trace, and outline the various things you see and imagine their tactile qualities. I find it's more enjoyable on one's back."
"Indra's Looking Glass Net with Double Helix"
Roth describes the above photo:
"The first of the inverted photos and also the first site re-visited in hopes of getting another shot. But it had vanished even though the mouth-like pattern of leaves should have been a dead give-away. The leaves, however, had disappeared and even the "mouth" had somehow closed up. It may recently have reappeared, but, if so, it's now much less compelling. Could this really have been the same place or was it just another level of illusion?
Like many of these photographs, it was a revelation when it came out of the "fixing" tray. Nothing had been pre- or post-visualized - Just an interesting pattern of light and lines, a click, and then temporary amnesia. Certainly no forethought of left- and right-handed versions of the same photo combining to create a more complex image, like a simple nucleic acid ramifying into a Double Helix DNA strand. A first lesson in the happy accidents that result from being topsy-turvy."
His website has so much to offer: his photos, his poetry, his prose...new ways of seeing, and many experiments you can try at home. I really recommend several visits a day...
"Now That's What I'm Talking' About!"
(*Note: The title to this post comes from his website.)