Sunday is my writing day. If I’ve been having a really good week, and my schedule and my brain have been cooperative, then I spend part of the day putting the final touches on my weekly blog post. All too often, these days, that time is spent in a mad dash to get my ideas down in a form that is at least partially digestible to my unsuspecting readers.
However, sometimes things do not quite work out, and I find myself trapped in a Monday morning staring contest with that blank page on my screen.
And here we are, waiting to see who will blink first…,
It’s my own fault, of course, that I am in this predicament.
You see, A friend called me on Saturday night, begging me to come out on Sunday morning to take some photos of her for a family project. She hates having her photo taken and had, as a consequence, put things off until absolutely the last possible moment.
I could have declined, of course, but a half-day photography session actually sounded like a lot of fun, and I honestly believed I would get home in plenty of time to meet my self-imposed Monday morning publishing deadline.
And so, as Sunday dawned, I gathered all my equipment and headed off for a day of “soul stealing”.
Soul Stealing is a private joke of mine, referring to the old superstitions that used to accompany photography. In the past, certain folks believed that in capturing an image of someone, you were also taking from them a portion of their soul.
I suppose the other reason that I think of it that way, is because, on some level, I’m not all that comfortable taking pictures of people.
I love doing landscape photography, and shooting architecture and even animals, but it’s different with people. Shooting people ‘feels’ intrusive to me, even when the subject wants to be photographed. It really does feel as if, on some level, I am taking something away from them.
And when I watch one of the most outgoing and self-assure people I have ever known, transform into someone shy and anxious, when I see an incredible natural radiance suddenly obscured by clouds of loathing and self-doubt, I wonder about the true power of the camera.
I know people who hate being in front of a camera. I am one myself, which is why I most often plant myself firmly behind the lens rather than before it.
Others are in love with the camera. They seek out that space in front of the lens, and when there is no one else there to take a picture, they will do it themselves, sometimes at risk of life and limb (because, why wouldn’t you take a selfie while driving, right?!).
And then there is the fact that ours is the most photographed culture in the history of the world. We are constantly in front of a lens (or ten). We are filmed and photographed everywhere we go, in every business, on street corners and intersections, and when all else fails, there are all those cameras floating around in orbit.
Is a photo just an image, simply a collection of dots on a page recording the light which bounced off the surface on an object at a particular point in time and space? Or is there more to it than that?
In some ancient cultures, it was believed that to possess an image of a person or creature, provided a conduit to its power or a measure of control over its being. When we look at a photo of a departed friend or family member, do we not feel a closeness with them? Does the cult of celebrity, which as much as any other force, turns the wheels of our economy, not depend upon the power of the photograph?
Is there a real power there that we simply refuse to see?
Or is it just all in our heads?
In any case, it was a pretty good Sunday.
We got a late start, the light was intermittent at best, my friends dog was far more interested in running around than posing for the camera, and we were racing a cold front, but we got a few workable shots.
Not my best work, to be sure. But then, I’m pretty critical of myself behind the camera as well.
Obviously, my writing got put off until Monday morning.
Which brings us back to the staring contest with the blank page.
I wonder what I’ll write about.
Maybe stealing souls.