Blinded by the light
(or: Enlightened by the Blind)
When I was 15 and everything around me was full of sexual innuendo, Manfred Mann's song "Blinded by the light" continued - to my perked-up ears - "wrapped up like a douche in the middle of the night." I didn't know what a douche was but it must have been something private and feminine because the Massengale TV commercials sounded 100% conspiratorial against my teenage curiosity, not wanting to let out any secrets that would put me anywhere close to an even level with a 15-year-old girl.
But that is all beside the point here. This post is dedicated to all you blind photographers out there. Here's a success story about one of them.
For the rest of us, this artist's "painting with light" that he can't even see (yet can somehow hear) could be interpreted as his throwing down the gauntlet at the rest of us sighted camera-toters. Should we make more effective use of our eyes? Or should we perhaps also go blindly where we have not yet gone?
You could take that challenge literally and try closing your eyes while taking photographs. Or you could perhaps open up your other senses to what is around you. Feel something before you photograph it in order to become more aware of how the light should fall on it so that its look better portrays how it felt to you. You could open your whole self to the temperature, the humidity, the slant of light, the ambient sounds and, in some cases, even the tastes of your photographic subjects. I posit that being aware of the essence of what we photograph is the first - and very necessary - step toward becoming able to portray it in an effective manner.
There. I said it. Now I have to go out and try to prove that I've understood it. But first let's see if there are any shots I've already taken in which I remember having done this.
This beat-up little butterfly was trying to escape the hot, humid house it was trapped in. It flew up the safety glass, scanning the surface in search of the freedom it innately sought. It's wings suffered with each attempt at escape. Here it is about to land again and catch its breath for another go at it.
The butterfly exhibition was in a hot-house that was set to 99% humidity and about 95° F, which was not all too different from the weather conditions outside the house that August day in Richmond. I think I felt like this butterfly, wanting to escape the oppression, especially when the misters began to spray a fine cloud of rain over my equipment as I quickly fluttered by them on my way to the exit.
When I process an image harshly like the one above, I am trying to represent what it is that I interpreted into the scene before me. Looking out of the fourth-story window of Stuttgart's town hall, I watched the people come and go in this urban landscape, unaware that they were being observed. But weren't they somehow aware of observation, as if they were following others and themselves? If you look closely, you can see their cloned Doppelgänger.
Here the winter is in full swing yet the hope - or memory? - of a warmer season is present in the picture. The stern steps gently give way to the drifted snow, becoming one with the frozen water on the lake.
This picture tells a story that is often observed in places of transition (in this case the Stuttgart train station). Someone waiting, ticket in hand, for the mode of transportation that will eventually take them to another place. This passenger does not quite look like she is relishing the thought of traveling, especially if she is going to be expected to be as perky as the woman on the billboard.
And, finally, a sunset silhouette of God's house, showing lots of space in heaven above. The spacial emphasis here is clearly not on "house," yet the eye is attracted to all that is happening in the busy bottom third of the picture. I believe, however, that there is a part of us that can - perhaps subconsciously - appreciate the peaceful, swirling space above it because we need this idea of freedom to live in peace.