Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What is it about taking photos?

What is it about taking photos that I love so much? I've thought about it, and I can't tell you for sure. I went to a convention in Greensboro, North Carolina, last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I'd left my camera at the hotel on Day 1, and that was fine. I was absorbing the scene and a headful of information. On Friday I brought my camera. I'd been taking photos all morning from my bleacher seat, and had gone out for a bit. On the way back in, I passed Lisa, who said, "You look HAPPY!" I realized I was grinning from ear to ear and feeling almost ecstatic. I don't think it was simply the up mood of the convention, because I was clearly feeling different than I had on Thursday. I was holding the camera. I'd been taking photos. What is it?

I LOVE it. I love writing, I love art, I love a lot of things, but taking pictures simply makes me happy. Some people say that when you're taking pictures, you're avoiding the experience of the moment or avoiding connection with people around you. Maybe. And I realize I'm more visual than social. When I look at something with a camera in hand, I see more. And I see differently. Even when I don't have a camera in hand, I'm usually looking for the invisible frame. The frozen moment of shape and color. Again, I see more, not less, I think.

And perhaps it's the sense that the moment can be re-lived. Or the image can be re-lived. Maybe the image is, often times, even stronger than the moment. It should go without staying that there are many moments that fall outside this scenario, such as moments between two people, and on and on, but there is something magical about crawling back inside a slide with a loop, or these days, more often inside a bunch of pixels on the hard drive.

I am not a great photographer, although I often think I'd like to learn. But I don't pursue it. It's not about that kind of professional-quality accomplishment. Images conjure atmospheres. And atmospheres, such as immersion in a theatre piece, or stepping into a centuries-old cathedral, connect with deep emotions. I guess we each have ways in which we plug into a well of satisfaction within ourselves, and images are one of the primary things that do this for me. They inform a connection to something desirable and not quite tangible. Maybe it's that simple.

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