I was at a photography conference in March, and I saw a promotional postcard for Lily Brooks' work. It had the first image you see below on it - the weather map taped to the window screen. Something about that photograph stayed with me and made me keep coming back. When I went to her website to see the full project, I fell in love with it. The images are lovely, lyrical. The narrative thread is subtle but solid. Soak it up.
we have to count the clouds by lily brooks
An inscription at the National Weather Service station in New Braunfels, TX reads, “He who shall predict the weather, if he does it conscientiously and with inclination, will have no quiet life any more.”
In my series We Have to Count the Clouds, photographs function as evidence of the ways in which we comprehend, negotiate and mediate our relationship to weather and climate. Meteorological instruments act as an extension of our senses; within them a semblance of understanding exists. In looking closely at the marks that are made–in the prediction of weather, the tracking of meteorological data, as well as on the landscape and human body itself–the work presents the visual remnants of often invisible forces.
I moved to Texas in August of 2011, during the worst drought since the 1950’s. Conversations about the heat were ubiquitous and as tedious as the temperature itself. On the hottest day of the year, I painstakingly cut out the weather map from the Wall Street Journal. It was 112° outside the window of my apartment, where I glued the map to the glass. Backlit, the delicate shape of the country was all pinks and reds, collapsed by my camera upon its verso, then the window, screen and landscape.
For me, the picture spoke about displacement, history, and the near obsolescence of printed matter. I considered the newspaper weather map, this outline of the country filled with cartoon symbols, as a kind of tarot card. Buried amid the record of what had happened in the preceding 24-hours, the map was a published prediction of what might come next. I thought about all that data—now rendered by little suns and the scalloped edges of cold fronts—and wondered where it came from.
The resulting pictures are about the desire to know and see and predict what we cannot, what is wily, shifting. They are about the marks and instruments that conjure our history and future—the translation of wind that looks like a polygraph test or heart rate monitor, the sunlight burned into paper, the rain gauge cut like a crown, the handwritten notation of the first frost. This curiosity has lead me to make a body of work that has allowed me to see and learn about things I had never considered before, whether at a National Weather Service station or hiking through the floor of a forest, a year after a wildfire.