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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Balancing Light and Shadow

One of the things I love about photography is that, unlike reading, writing, talking, bookselling and teaching (a personal and incomplete list, that), it is nonverbal. Words can be beautiful, can be magic, but it’s good to be able to take a vacation from them, too, once in a while, especially when a single word can dominate my thought for months at a time, bordering on obsession. One year that word was ‘balance.’ Well, with my camera I am not thinking about balance but working to achieve it wordlessly. Big difference. One way the mind goes round and round in its squirrel cage; the other way, the mind takes a backseat or even a little meditative nap, leaving eyes and hands in charge. The old 35mm demanded that shutter speed and aperture be balanced, something my digital camera’s automatic program does now, but that still leaves dark and light, detail and empty space and overall composition to be considered. Not thought about, mind you, but seen to and adjusted for.

Truly, though, what happens with me is that I go back and forth between seeing images and thinking in and with words. I balance, in the French sense, i.e., swing between these different modes of apprehending the world, traveling to and fro on the wings of metaphor, and the word that holds me in its grip this week is ‘shadow.’ On days when clouds hide the sun, even if snow is falling, how still the landscape seems, shadows absent or barely impinging on consciousness! Then the sun reappears, casting objects and their shadows into stark relief against the glaringly bright snow. From each day its beauty. Here comes (came) the sun, brightening our Northport morning. Saturday morning the village will be brightened by the village band and carolers, performing songs of the season at various locations around town, beginning at 10 a.m.


Anonymous said...

J'ai le même sentiment pour la peinture que toi pour la photographie. Les images ont un charme que les mots n'ont pas: un silence qui exprime et qui n'explique pas.

P. J. Grath said...

Moi, aussi, Neige. Photography, painting, drawing. I do not paint (leave that to David) but occasionally draw, and that's an even better wordless meditation, as it can encompass hours. Then there is poetry. Poems are made up of words, but those words construct images rather than arguments. They speak to express rather than to explain. And so for me, immersion rather than analysis is the way into a poem. I think fewer people would fear poetry if they would let themselves take this approach.