The Series aspect of the work: Sami Graffiti in The Valley of the Moon

Melissa Weiss Steele Earthen Body photography series Sami Graffiti 2007

Melissa Weiss Steele Earthen Body photography series Sami Sonoma 2007

Melissa Weiss Steele Earthen Body series 2007

Melissa Weiss Steele "Eagle Eye Graffiti" from the Earthen Body ritualistic photography series, Sami Sonoma California 2007

The series aspect of the work is some of the most interesting parts of the process.  The photos above are from my Earthen Body series taken in 2007 and 2008. These particular images were taken during a break from a fantastic Sami/ Norwegian/ Norse  Shamanism workshop by Ailo Gaup through Michael Harner’s Foundation for Shamanic Studies. We were in the achingly beautiful Valley of The Moon in Sonoma, CA.  I am such an Earth Baby, and I had reached my limit of  being separated from those honey-colored rolling hills in the  September sunlight. I skipped an afternoon session and went to frolic on the land. I had a blast and got some great shots-a lovely mix of process and product. The photo below is from an algae covered stream  called “Sami Vacant.”.

Melissa Weiss Steele Eathen Body ritualistic photogrpahy series 2007 "Sami Vacant"

I do not actually consider myself a photographer. I cannot tell you the ASA of a shot or make Gelatin Silver Prints in the darkroom. I see the camera as simply a tool to document a ritualistic process. The main goal of the work is to create communion with the Land and Spirits and get the hell out of the way. All of The Earthen Body work was done with a very small digital camera, and The Painted Body series used only a slightly bigger one; God Bless the Canon G9.

Because it really is documentation of ceremony, I take hundreds to thousands of images during each photo shoot. It actually ranges from about 300 to 4000 pictures, with extended groups of different angles and locations. It’s really interesting to look at the progressions during the process-it becomes a range of moods and reactions, a montage of human expression and engagement.

The four Sami Graffiti photos above represent the first graffiti images within the work. While exploring the Sonoma landscape I found a handful of large feather. I initially thought they were from a Turkey Vulture, but was later corrected by Maria Yraceburu;  They were Eagle feathers. I found the tunnel with the aerosol art  just after collecting the feathers. I took off my glasses and top, descending into the darkened tunnel, dancing with the sacred eagle gift. The final photo of the 4 is a miracle of composition and proportion. I do not see well without my glasses, and all of the images are taken VERY quickly and spontaneously.  So to have the background, feathers and my eye line up like that was only possible through Divine Intervention. That was when it really really hit me that I had somehow slipped into a co-creation with The Universe. It was so exciting and humbling at the same time. I had been kissed by the Angels.

So the series aspect of the work is really the true representation of creativity in its wild and undulating complexity. It’s not all beautiful or perfect, but if we show up we can meet the entire range of expressions that want to spill forth. And we may occasional reach excellence, with a little help from our friends…

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