TREMOR: Reflections on the Nature of Parkinson'sKristin V. Rehder
Kristin V. Rehder
It seemed to come from nowhere—a slight tremble in my left hand in the summer of 2019. In time came the diagnosis: Parkinson’s. As a natural-light documentary photographer, I began to retreat. How could I hold and maneuver a camera while battling a constant and worsening quaking?
TREMOR is the result of this ongoing quest.
Three years after my diagnosis, a friend offered to meet me in a nearby park to teach me the energy movements of Qigong. As I raised my hands, feeling for the wind and following the light, I noticed how my tremor mirrored the flutterings of the birds, the lilt of passing butterflies, and the shimmering of the grasses enveloping us. My shaking was as natural as the motions and changeability of earth and sky. Could I embrace how this felt, using a camera?
Soon I was photographing in the habitat just behind where I live: a small catchment basin, foxtail grasses, a dancing row of hickory and mulberry trees, a galaxy of birds, and farm fields reaching toward the distance. Allowing my animated hand to direct the camera and shooting with a slow shutter in four seasons, I simply gave my shaking its due.
My tremor is not foreign to me now. It connects to nature, and nature’s movements connect back to the tremor, expanding its power and its reach. Together, these forces create their own art, converting what some perceive as a disability into the opposite—into possibility and positive energy, into a mounting sense of wonder.
The basin, pictured below, fed by a spring and stormwater runoff, is located behind the photographer's home in Willow Valley Communities, Willow Street, Pennsylvania. It has been the site of the TREMOR project for over a year. Hickory, hackberry, and mulberry trees line the wetlands that attract a multitude of insects, amphibians, and birds that are essential to its vibrant ecosystem. Filtering, maintaining surface water during dry periods, storing carbon, and building nutrients, this small basin and others like it play a significant role in addressing local and global climate challenges.
Kristin V. Rehder, a native of Wilmington, North Carolina, is a documentary photographer and writer living in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. She holds a B.A. with honors in English literature from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, an M.A. in liberal studies with a focus in the cultural history of photography from Skidmore College, and a postgraduate certificate in documentary arts from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.
Rehder’s documentary photography on the concept of community, including The Way to Wanakena (in Upstate New York) and Where Hope Finds Home (focused on the refugees of Lancaster County) have shown at the Phillips Museum of Art at Franklin & Marshall College, the Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College, the Palmer Gallery at Vassar College, Lancaster General Hospital, and the Pennsylvania Governor’s Residence Galleries, among others. Through the Narrows, her exhibition on the meaning of place and environmental sustainability, opened in 2018 at St. Lawrence University’s Brush Art Gallery and was then exhibited at the New York Hall of Science in Queens, New York. Her exhibition, The Beech Grove, also showed in 2018 at the Lancaster History campus.
Rehder’s work is featured in the permanent collections of the Phillips Museum of Art at Franklin & Marshall College, the Adirondack Experience, and St. Lawrence University and is included in Mary Warner Marien’s fifth edition of Photography: A Cultural History.
All images were printed for exhibit by Kimberly Sanderson, Perfect Image, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
The artist would like to give special thanks to Sue Washburn, the team at the Phillips Museum, Dennis Connors, Rose Garfinkle, Rick Kent and Shu-hua Chiu-Kent, Gina Rae La Cerva, Rosanne Oyer, Susan Reath, Kim Sanderson, Rik Scarce, Joel Schock, Jill Singer and Dan Lyons, and all those who have supported the origins of this work and its realization.
TREMOR travels to St. Catherine’s School, Richmond, Virginia, for a 2024 exhibition.