Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Sibling Assignment #158: The Inner Life of Pictures

Christy gave a simple, but not easy, assignment:  "Write how photography has enriched your life." Christy's reflections and pictures are here and here you can read Carol's response and view pictures.

Maybe because I don't have words to describe the inner life I see radiating outwardly in people I observe or in what I see in nature, like trees and wetlands and birds or in chairs and benches and old sofas on porches or in bridges or bodies of water, I try to bring this inner life alive in pictures I take and this inner life comes alive for me in many pictures I look at.

Seeing things this way has greatly enriched my life, greatly increased my sense of wonder.

I'm not sure I can write very well about this.

But, I can say that when I take pictures, I am in a state that takes me inside myself and outside myself at the same time.

I like to take, and enjoy viewing, street photographs because rather than portraying a controlled or posed moment, these pictures are candids that give the viewer a glimpse into the inner life, maybe even the private inner life, of the subject and opens the way for anyone who looks at the picture to more deeply explore, and maybe be perplexed by, the riddle of human existence.  When I take candid street pictures, I am outside myself.  I am watching, even studying, people around me.  I'm also inside myself.  I find myself feeling what people seem to be feeling when I take a picture, or when I decide to pull back and not open the shutter. I'm enriched by experiencing and entering into the reality (or realities) of shared feeling as expressed in the person's face and body.

I don't always have words for what the feeling is, but I have a picture:

It's the same way with the pictures I take of people holding hands (or holding each other in some way).  They are physically joined to each other and I find myself, if only for a moment, joined to them in feelings of happiness or protection or enjoyment or whatever is happening at that moment:

If I am enriched by these moments, am I richer?  Yes, I think I am.  You see, I'm not very motivated in life by things that define me as an individual.  I'm not much of an achiever.  When I've won awards, I've been embarrassed. My thoughts almost always tend toward what is best for the all of us -- say our family or the church or other social arrangements and not so much about what is good just for me.  It's why I seek out ways to help and do things with the family I was born into,  why I am so loyal to my friends, why I enjoy the Deke and our family.    It's why I enjoyed teaching.  It's why the church means so much to me.

And, so, pictures enrich me because of what they bring to life that portrays the bonds we have with each other and the bonds we have with the natural world, and, believe it or not, with the material world.  I know that each picture I take of a material thing is a picture of some kind of history, some way that this thing has been cared for or neglected, how it's been a means for some kind of human deed or interaction.

I'm not as adept as I'd like to be at taking pictures of storefronts and buildings and houses, but I follow photographers on tumblr who are and their pictures enrich my imagination as to what happens in these stores or bars and how these buildings and houses came to be and what these places have contributed to the building, or the destruction, of bonds between people.

I take pictures of chairs and benches and other things people sit on.  I see an inner life in these seats. I pretend like each of them is inviting people who see them to "Come, have a sit" and I also imagine the many people who have taken time to sit on them.  Maybe you don't, but I also see an inner life in the personality of these things people sit on -- these chairs and benches and sofa seem, to me, to have an emotional life and sometimes, when more than one are in the same place, they seem to be speaking to one another.  Sometimes, they just seem lonely.  See what you think:

Most often, I don't know what story a picture tells or what its inner life is when I take the picture.  I have a sense that something might be there, but I don't plan these things out.  In fact, I find it very difficult to think while I take pictures.  My reading tells me that other photographers think a lot more than I do, especially about composition.  I actually try to empty my mind mind of thoughts when I look through the view finder and I try to feel the inner life of what I see, hoping that inner life will be expressed and that the picture will convey feeling beyond its surface.

That emptying of my mind, that sense of connection with what I see -- that's what enriches me.

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