What is life?
That’s a pretty odd thing to come out of a photographer, but given a closer look, it is what our lives revolve around; the mystery of life, what it is, what are its characteristics and how do the lives of one individual or group interact with another?
I would argue that life is, by itself, unimportant. An amoeba is alive, but is absolutely alone. A tree in the forest has life and although it may slowly react to its environment, it is ultimately alone, in that it cannot interact.
It is in the interactions between individuals blessed with the capability of thought, where the fascination comes in. Interaction comes in all styles from the gentle and social to the violent and painful, with all the shades in between. To the observer, they have an almost hypnotic allure, drawing us in where we can share in the feelings that emanate from the auras generated by the interactions.
Have you ever been in the presence of a loving family – not your own – where you couldn’t help smiling? Have you ever been behind the guy at checkout who was giving the cashier a difficult time? The interactions and emotions that they elicit create an aura that is almost inescapable; one that engulfs you and affects you despite your wishes to remain apart.
It is these interactions that define our lives and determine who and what we are, and what we will eventually become. It is not the chance of birth, a bad teacher (or a great one) or even the result of an accident. It is the interactions between you and the rest of the world (and your reactions to those interactions) that will ultimately determine who you are and the type of person you will be.
Experiences (accidents, physical skills learned etc) are entered into the mix, and although they affect the outcome, they are minor compared to your interactions and reactions.
The best interactions I call “Moments”, and these are what we, at our best, wish to make the defining pillars of our self-worth and esteem. The photo published in the glossy magazine, the bird drawing praised by the professor of Ornithology, the wedding, the birth of a child, the perfect evening out, the awards and accolades – these are moments worthy of remembering and dwelling upon.
The rest of life is, to me, survival between moments. Being let go from a job, divorce, loss of a loved one, these are also part of our lives, but we decide whether they will be defining events.
As a photographer, I am continually called upon to record the best “Moments”, a High School Senior, a newborn, an award – and I get inside the aura and drink in the sensations of joy, love and pride.
Sometime “Moments” are manufactured, and can be just as precious. The family that chooses to have a portrait done, the mother and daughter who came in to the studio for their photos – who were looking for a reason to spend a day enjoying each other… Of course the wedding is the ultimate “manufactured moment”… At weddings, I need tissues as much as the mother of the bride.
These “Moments” are the result of and in many cases the beginning of “Relationships”. The interactions we have with others can be voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary relationships are almost always good. Friendship, romance, mentorship, they all spring into being because we WANT them to exist, not because they were forced on us.
Involuntary relationships happen because individuals were thrust together without the interpersonal interactions taking place first. Mother and child, student and teacher, classmates, co-workers are all examples of involuntary relationships. We will interact with each and form a relationship, but the outcome is neither ordained to be close or positive.
There is no reason co-workers (spawned from involuntary relationships) can’t have “Moments”, even defining, intensely positive moments. Think of a team who has done an exceptional job and has won an award.
They may even go from being co-workers, to lovers to married, but that is a step from the involuntary to voluntary.
So why am I writing all of this?
In my profession of art and photography, I am continually studying relationships and emotions, and doing my very best to capture the essence of the aura within my images. Mother and Newborn together create the aura easiest to portray since the emotions are totally unhidden (except from people I call the “cold pricklies”. But then they were the ones giving the cashier the hard time…).
Sometimes it’s harder to uncover the aura, but it’s never impossible.
And once you find it and allow its aura to be portrayed, it is then that the image holds you, and makes you feel. And love as well.
THEN, my job is done.