You Had to Be There

February 29, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

It was an extraordinarily lovely shot. They'd nearly frozen, the photographer said, getting up to shoot the lake that early. Oh, he said as an afterthought, "I added the clouds."  

They were extraordinarily lovely, too--high, thin streaky. But my heart fell. Something I thought the picture was telling me--about wind and weather and water at one moment of one year--it wasn't exactly telling me. But what is "exact" in any photograph? Or in any kind of telling? And why do I worry so much about it?

A colleague made a comment I liked: "Every time I see a picture of some snow covered winter scene," she said, "I find myself thinking that some photographer was very cold."

Digital, now, means never really having to be there. And yet, as a writer I particularly like photography's ability to force me out of my head and the clouds of words that fill it, and into a world of alien surfaces, uncertain weather, and un-planned arrangements. 

Once there, I am eager to tinker and make adjustments. But I enjoy the sensation of collaborating with things that resist my will. If I can broker a detente between the given and the chosen, I am happy. If the relationship between them turns to marriage...That's magic.  

Of course, it all depends on what we choose to regard as a given....









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