We’ve all heard the adage “a picture paints a thousand words” and it has become an adage for a reason. It is most certainly true. Everyone who stops to look at a particular photo has a different perspective about what they are looking at. The same picture may bring someone great joy or great despair depending on their life experience and history. It may bring loathing or longing, desire or disdain. It may mean different things to the same person at different times in their life. I once painted my kitchen cupboards to look like (what I thought at the time) was stained glass. I was very pleased with the outcome. Fast forward a couple of years and every time I looked at them I thought a clown had exploded. My own perspective had changed. I had grown from one chapter of my life and transitioned into another. My taste and outlook were completely transformed. I’ve read books for the second time after many years between the readings and, because my worldview had widen and matured, it was like reading it for the first time. That is how I can tell that I’ve grown. My adult children often look at me in amazement when I offer an opinion or an idea contrary to my beliefs when they were young. They bring up instances where I reacted in a completely different manner back then, as if I was never allowed to grow and change. I somehow had to remain frozen in time to align to their beliefs about my parenting skills, or lack thereof. Sometimes we manage to clip our own wings and other times we allow others to clip them for us. And sometimes, we find the courage to just fly.
Taking pictures has not always been an enjoyment for me nor was I very good at it. Having a rough childhood I repressed many memories and photography became a way in which I could ensure I would truly “make” a memory. Something tangible that I could look back upon and without a doubt say “look there…that happened”. From age 11, using my mother’s old box “Brownie” camera to take pictures of friends before we moved house, to the Kodak Instamatic 110 that traveled with me on a school trip to Europe, to the 35mm that captured my children’s childhood, the purse sized camera that got me through middle age travels and special moments, to the mountain of camera bodies, lenses, and tripods that today make photography my passion.
With the advent of modern social media, sharing my passion has never been easier. Where once we would haul out the photo albums of a recent trip or fire up the slide projector to either astound or bore to tears our family and friends…now we can fire up those photos onto social media in an instant, as the story unfolds. Our friends and family can hit the like button out of courtesy (see, there is proof I saw and liked what you posted even if in reality I just scrolled by). Or they can stop and truly appreciate your latest post and click on the heart button or make a comment. Again, everyone sees it differently. It can make someone’s day, make someone jealous or envious, or give inspiration. It may have no affect at all. Sometimes the effect is simply that it made me happy to share.
As I stand, usually in the middle of nowhere, deep in the dark, with my camera and tripod at the ready, I have no idea what I will capture. Sometimes I think I have made a great capture only to realize sadly that my settings were not right and the moment spoiled. Not really spoiled, for it was a lesson unto itself…always check your settings. (It’s even worse when the lesson is to remember to remove the lens cap). Sometimes a photo makes me think of a particular person that I want to share the moment with. Sometimes it’s deeply personal. What is truly amazing is when that photo becomes a story to someone else. It takes on a life of it’s own because it has a meaning to someone that I could never have possibly foreseen.
Two photos that stand out in that category are the ones that I refer to as “The Watermelon Rind” and the “Beaver/Frost moon”. When the watermelon rind showed up, I was in awe of the colour and contour of the Lady Aurora that night. To me, it looked like a watermelon rind that has been discarded – just a slight bit of the ruby coloured flesh of the fruit under the bright green of the rind. It was massive – covering an entire school playground from hockey rink to soccer goal posts and beyond. Then one day a friend was looking to purchase a wedding gift for her nephew. She thought an aurora pic would be just the thing. As we talked, she mentioned that the bride and groom were childhood sweethearts who had actually met at the school in the small hamlet where I live. He was in grade 1 and she in kindergarten. I do not consider the “watermelon rind” to be the prettiest or most iconic incarnation of the Lady Aurora, but I always found it interesting. And at that moment, while talking to my friend I knew it was THE picture for this event. The actual school playground where this couple met canopied by the majesty of the Lady Aurora. It was meant to be. “The Auroras shine with shimmering joy over the school playground, where a girl met a boy” is the inscription. The gift was received with great joy and I am sure will be treasured for a good many years to come…long after this photographer puts down the camera.
The second photo that comes to mind is the photo of the full Beaver or Frost Moon taken on November 12th this year. The clouds were desperately trying (and mostly succeeding)to mask the ascent of this almost magically bright orange orb. But I managed to catch it just as it was rising out of one bank of clouds ready to ascend into the next. I thought it was pretty and I printed off one mostly to give to a fellow moon aficionado and a couple more to freshen up my market display. They sold almost instantly. But this photo had a story I had yet to discover. Nine days after I took the shot, I received a phone call from a fellow desperate to find a photo of that particular moon. He had tried, and failed, to take a photo and it would mean something very special to him and someone close to him. He had called several photographers he knew to no avail. One lady he spoke with said she didn’t do night photography but she had been at a market where she saw someone with that exact moon shot he was looking for. She had even spoken with me about it. But she did not know my name or how to contact me. Perhaps if he spoke with the person who set up the market? He got hold of this person who knew immediately they were speaking of my photos and my contact info was given. He reached out and was excited to learn I did, in fact, have a photo of that exact moon taken on the exact date he wanted. As luck would have it, it was Market night and he said he would be there to pick it up. Wow, I’m just getting started on this adventure and here was a stranger recommending me to a stranger. No longer just friends talking to friends. It made my day. What really made my day though was the pure joy this man displayed in picking up this photo. It was exactly what he wanted. You could see the lightness in his step as he walked away. He got back to me later and told me the gift was received way beyond how he had imagined. I do not know the recipient, nor am I ever likely too. But I feel the joy that was given and it has made me so much more rich than the dollars that were exchanged that day.
You just never know what a brief millisecond of time will bring to you or to another human being you didn’t even know existed…