It has been well over a month since I posted. While it’s true I’ve been traveling, that doesn’t explain my absence. When reading Oxford’s definition of a blog – “a regularly updated website or web page. . . that is written in an informal or conversational style,” I was surprised to learn it had nothing to do with content or what the “blogger” wants to say. Perhaps that explains why there are millions of them, and why they created a word to describe those who write them. This is not an insult of “bloggers,” but a realization that I am not one. I care about what I write, not how frequently I do it. That is why I have not written in approximately six weeks – I had nothing to say. Or more accurately, I’d not slowed down long enough for thoughts worth sharing to reach the place in my mind and heart where I can no longer keep them to myself. Luckily for my soul, which is the greatest beneficiary of these posts, I’ve had time to slow down, to think, to reflect.
Several weeks ago I had an interesting conversation about art and photography while riding the metro to work. I shared my website with my fellow commuter, and had forgotten about the encounter until I received an email from him yesterday. He wrote, “when I see something which is really true, lacking any attempts of cheap effects, then I know it. And your photos make me watch them, stand up, go and think for a while, then come back to the computer and watch them again.” It was perhaps the greatest compliment a photographer could ever receive, worth more than any commission or exhibition.
His words led me to reflect on why I choose the subjects I photograph, particularly the people. Which word best describes the feeling when I walk past someone I know I want to photograph? Again I turned to Oxford: Fascinating – “extremely interesting.” No, it’s more than interest. Intriguing – “arousing one’s curiosity or interest.” Not enough. Compelling – “Not able to be resisted.” Closer, but it still does not fully describe the feeling. Perhaps it’s indescribable. But, I know this – I feel it.
When I slow down, I seek. I search. I look for stories. Anyone who has been on this earth more than a few years knows life is filled with a wide range of emotions – good, bad, happy, sad, fulfilling, devastating, intimate, impersonal. Our experience of, not texting or blogging about, this ever changing roller coaster of emotions IS the human experience. They, not words, are what define us. They are our life.
When I walk the streets with my camera, I look for those emotions. I search for people who have removed their mask, even if just for a moment, allowing those willing to look a glimpse of the marks, blemishes and scars of their lives. In almost every instance, my interaction with them is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. Their gracious nature reminds me of the freedom in taking off the mask, of being who we are, and allowing our experiences, good or bad, to unashamedly be part of who we are in the present.
I choose the subjects I do because I believe what the late photographer Edward Steichen once said – “Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inherited, and the wealth and confusion man has created. It is a major force in explaining man to man.” I photograph them because I want to understand myself.