Traveling Light:
A Photographer's Journey

by Deborah DeWit Marchant


Impassio Press, 2003. ISBN 0971158339.
Reviewed by Duffie Bart
Posted on 11/16/2004

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Creative Life

"God is in the details..." If anyone lives the truth of this well known statement, it is Deborah DeWit Marchant, the author of Traveling Light. Ms. DeWit Marchant's fascination with light and how it effects whatever it falls upon heightens her awareness of her surroundings. She sees a transcendental beauty in every detail of ordinary life and is able to convey this special beauty—its mystery and elusiveness—in her paintings and in her photography. And if such a talent were not enough, she is also a brilliant writer who shares with us the journey of her life, her personal world and her feelings in an exceptionally insightful way.

The way in which light affects an object is not something many people particularly notice. But for Ms. DeWit Marchant, the existence of light is an essential value in her life. Whatever she looks at, be it inside or outside, is affected by the way light does or does not illuminate it. Not the typical coffee-table book, Traveling Light is a small book with relatively small images on one side of a page and her mesmerizing, descriptive passages on the other. Her photography has given me a new awareness of light. Because it is so subtle, I sometimes cannot actually see the light imbued in her images; yet I can feel its presence.

The author's life has been deeply enriched by the aliveness of her five senses. This is best conveyed by her following descriptive passage:

"On a winter morning I arrived at work early, before anyone else. Our first snow had fallen in the night. The air was damp and soft. Everything had been swept clean by the light dusting. The white, muffled silence was nearly complete. Only the scrape of wooden flats against asphalt echoed across the lot as I heaved boxes of plants up from their protection beneath the tables.

I paused, panting. Clouds of breath lingered long and cottony around me. My heat-throbbing cheeks welcomed the slap of frozen air. I stood still and gazed about me: the wet blacktop was blue and pink with the reflected morning sky; the droopy, stalwart pansies had been wilted by the sudden shock of frost; and the sawdust pile, snow-capped like a mountain, was forested with bare, pruned roses waiting for me to bury their shivering dormant roots in pots of warm black soil."

Marchant masterfully captures light falling on a flower, a chair, a meadow, a door, a piece of wood, etc. Her subjects are beautiful and limitless. She writes that she was raised on a farm and loved it—the sound and sturdiness of the tractor, the light and mustard yellows of the wheat fields, the rich brown of the earth, the glistening pond, the brilliance or haziness of the sky. Early on, she was drawn to the presence of light in its limitless hues and shadings; its illumination of the essence of things; its effect on the mood of a scene. Taking nothing for granted, she marvels at the world in all its subtle nuances and transformations with an eye for mystery, a sensitivity to sensation, and a need to capture those sensations on film, understand them and share them with others.

Her photographic journey began when she was fifteen with her father's 35mm camera. Today, she brings a special uniqueness to every photograph, capturing the ethereal quality of ever-changing light. Cows grazing in a field are not just cows grazing in a field. Marchant observes, "...the steam that rose from their hot wet skins, like mist on the surface of a warm river after a shower of green-grey rain," and she insists on capturing that sensory image.

Her writing so beautifully complements her photographic images, making this book is unlike any photography book I have seen. The tiniest detail has a seemingly invisible quality that she is determined to capture.

Marchant's willingness to discuss her own internal changes and new experiences with such candor added to my pleasure in reading this book. For me, the wonder of her talent in Traveling Light is twofold. First, I now see the mystery of light as never before. Secondly, as the author reveals her inner changes, she assists me in preparing for my own changes. What a unique and extraordinary gift this talented artist has given me...a gift that enriches me daily.

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