More than Stonehenge
When I mention standing stones, invariably people say, "Oh, like Stonehenge." Stonehenge is, without doubt, the crowning achievement—the most magnificent example of a megalithic structure. It represents the culmination of all the knowledge that preceded it and, quite possibly, shows the evidence of specialists from other cultures, skilled artisans who brought new ideas and techniques.
Very different from Stonehenge are the thousands of standing stones, stone circles, and other formations that can be found in Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland alone. Brittany, too, has rows and rows of huge stones, as well as solitary menhirs. Most of them are older than Stonehenge, and are undressed—the stones were left rough, not smoothed and shaped by hand. I like the early stones. Their textures and shapes give a sense of their individual characters, even if their shapes have changed over time.
The distribution of these stones is so much wider than people realize. My research has located stones as far north as Russia, Norway and Sweden; all over eastern and western Europe; in Armenia, Turkey, and Israel; on the north and west coasts of Africa; and even in Egypt and the Central African Republic. There are similarities and there is also a great variety, primarily because ancient peoples used whatever type of stone was available locally. They also created different formations and groupings, since they had probably never seen other sites but had only heard about them.
Why photograph the stones at night?
Since I believe many of the stones were erected so they were aligned with the Moon, Sun, or stars—and all of them are connectors between earth and sky—photographing at night emphasizes this connection by including the movements of stars and planets in the photographs. I am often asked about the white streaks in the sky. The "star trails" in the night photographs add the element of time. They are a visual record of how much the Earth has moved during the exposure—usually about eight minutes in full, uninterrupted moonlight. (If the Earth were stationary and the stars were "falling," like meteors, they would make a streak on the film. In the same way, since the stars appear to be stationary to us, as the Earth turns, they make the same streak of light on the film.)
The other reason I shoot at night is because the quality and character of moonlight is different than daylight—intriguing, mysterious, and loaded with historical and artistic significance. From our earliest beginnings, the Moon has exemplified the feminine, particularly female intuition and emotions. Traditionally, the phases of the Moon are associated with the cycles of birth, fullness, aging, and death. The Moon is also a symbol of regeneration and transformation, and the full moon is a symbol of wholeness, particularly in Asia. Japanese courtiers of old were fond of sitting outside, writing moon poems while gazing at the full moon. My night photographs are my moon poems—not made while looking at the Moon but while looking at the transformative effect of the Moon's light. And photographing by moonlight accentuates the sense of mystery that the stones have.
Barbara Yoshida, June 2014
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