Lessons from photography

All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassment, all is given to us as raw material, as clay so that we may shape our art.

Jorge Luis Borges

It is with my camera that I see and capture the world. With my camera I beat time, freeze the present, preserve the past. I can halt the race, stop the moment, revel in the magic in front of me. Photography is like poetry, it goes to the heart of the matter.

I recently did a photo project taking multiple exposures on film. Film photography is unique, hard, and depends on a dose of magic. It is not the exact science of digital photography and you only get one chance to get your shot right. It is also expensive, and you won’t see the photo you just took for weeks afterwards. On the other hand, digital photography offers instant gratification. That and the chance to add another layer of creativity with the virtual darkroom that is lightroom. The editing is a good part of the process. With film I generally leave the photos untouched, save for a few light and contrast adjustments, if necessary. So why do I love film so much? And why am I now adding another layer with multiple exposures?

I think it is both the magic and the risk. It is a place to commit and carefully, mindfully compose the shot with intention. The risk is that it might fail. The magic is that it might not. It is playful, uncertain and when it works, the best feeling ever. And with multiple exposures more magic is invited in. I attempt to control the outcome by noting down the shots I have taken, before rewinding the film and starting again. I think of a theme, I know what I want to happen. But magic takes care of the rest. And when it works it is simply the best.

There is a philosophical layer to this.

Tennessee Williams said “Has it ever struck you that life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quick you hardly catch it going?”

The paradox is that while I am trying to cheat time and snatch that fleeting moment, it is disappearing before my eyes.  With multiple exposures I am trying to double the attempt, freeze two moments, find two perspectives and widen my gaze. The glory is in the futility and the failure.

Inquiry question:

What risks have you taken recently?

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