What Draws Me To Photography

Curves #8388
Curves #8388

I was thinking about what draws me to photography…. I guess I like the magic of it. When I was really young, I got a Polaroid “swinger” camera, and I loved waiting for the picture to appear on the print ejected from the camera.

Then when I was first married, my husband bought me a nice camera and we turned our only bathroom into a darkroom and I was introduced to more magic. Again, it was watching the print appear on previously blank paper.

I was always fascinated with seeing the world through different eyes. I think I’m sort of a kid. I just love pretending, and back then I used to wonder what the world looked like to an insect, or to a dog. Or a few years later, to my children.

When I was in college I studied art and music, and it was always REALLY interesting to me how artists influenced musicians, and musicians influenced artists. I was fascinated with the effects of the Paris Exposition of 1889 on Debussy, Ravel, and the impressionistic painters of the day. What we do in the world affects so much beyond us. I loved studying how African art is an extension of their daily life. It is practical and beautiful and soulful all at the same time. I think there is some of that in my images. At least I hope so.

As time went by, I was forced to deal with the business of life and not spend much time on my photography. I had changed careers by then and was earning my living through my computer science skills. I watched as the digital age of photography approached. When I felt the quality of digital images was high enough, I leapt back into photography.

I am filled with wonder at how deeply interconnected things in nature are. I am still the little kid when I see some of the amazing works of man, and observe how man-made things interact with nature. How can we ever feel apart from each other, the things we make and the natural world? It is part of us. I feel that connection when I look at things up close. I am trying to “know” the object of my photograph.

Oil Drum #46
Oil Drum #46

Oh, and I am so into color, glorious color. Color that draws me in and makes me lose my sense of time and place. I love mystery. I am a huge fan of Mark Rothko and Wassily Kandinsky. I see patterns everywhere, some obvious and some very subtle. Patterns and the color and texture of the objects that form the patterns are of central interest to me.

So why photography? I think of my camera as secondary to what I am trying to express. The camera is the tool. But I like the limits it puts on me. When I was a kid I used to sculpt things. And I really liked subtracting the medium and liberating my subject from the block of plaster (or bar of soap!). Photography works like that… you take a picture that captures the light on your subject. Then you reduce it to the most relevant depiction of your vision. It is never reality, but it hopefully represents real experiences, feelings, and relationships.
And I like being outside and mobile, too. I am part of the world and I want to see it. I want to really stop to see and experience it.

But the fun doesn’t stop there! I can hardly wait until I get to my computer and upload my pictures. I really like the digital darkroom. I use software that allows me to make many more creative decisions in transforming a digital negative into a print. I love that freedom. Sometimes those decisions are obvious and routine. Crop this, sharpen that. But other times an image just grabs me and I know that I can play with it and create perhaps several final prints, each unique in its own way. It is such a powerful urge. Working on an image on the computer is at least half of my process. When I play in the digital darkroom, I lose track of everything else sometimes for hours. I try to subtract everything that doesn’t contribute to the essence of the image. And sometimes the creative process itself generates a new vision that leads to unexpected places. An Adventure! I’m smiling inside at the memory. And when I finally push away from my computer, I feel like I did when I was a kid and came into the house after an afternoon of hard play. ..exhausted, and exuberant.