Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Finding the photo

Sometimes the photo you think you're taking isn't the one that is being taken. With creative people, sometimes that "higher power", order in the universe, a part of the self that is generously giving of that information, finds the better photo. And you stand there wondering, what is the photo here. Not ready to listen, too determing to snap, we often take the "wrong photo", not waiting to understand exactly what we are photographing.

Even though it is quite obvious that I do not use a viewfinder in my 15mm self portraits, - and no trick mirrors either, I still compose the picture by a kind of instinct and by, of course, a desire for the photo. So even without the viewfinder, or an LED screen, I am still confronted with the problem of "what is the picture" and must remind myself of it from time to time. (I usually edit out photos with plam trees growing out of my head, but what the hey, this was what I'd like to talk about now.)

First off, let me explain the odd situation. I'm not one to be up on roofs every day, and I rarely shoot with an SLR anymore, so why the Minolta X-700? It was a few days after Huricane Wilma came through Miami and my ex, Claudia, had lost a lot of shingles and had some bad leaks, but she did have electric back two days after the storm. I was facing another week without electric. You couldn't find a roofer - they were all booked up, and others were coming here from all over! Well, I'm still on good terms with Claudia even 15 years after the divorce. Our mutuial friend Dave and I went up on the roof and I took photos of the damaged areas, the missing shingles, with Claudia's Minolta. Dave had picked up some of those big blue tarps, some lumber, and some nails. I bought a new blade for my circular saw and threw my ladder in the truck. Off to Claudia's house! We covered her roof with tarps, she fixed dinner for us, my first hot meal in a few days, and we got some hot showers as well! Until my power came back a week later she froze blocks of ice for me every day and I got some hot coffee and showers in the morning.

Now back to the argument, the "two photos". I really like the shadow of myself in this one. The juxtaposition of the shadow with myself is perfection! The overall composition "works" nicely. With one exception perhaps, this is the photo in my mind's eye. Then there's that pesky palm tree growing out of my head. About thirty years ago a desease called Lethal Yellowing wiped out about all the palm trees here. Before that time there probably would have been fifty or more in this photo. Earlier I'd been thinking about the changed landscape, the lack of palms compared to years past. I even mentioned it to Dave. After my first reaction of "Oh, crap!" upon seeing the tree growing out of my head a strange, almost supernatural calm came over me. I realized that the tree in a way WAS growing out of my head, standing tall in memory, a lone symbol, a reminder of all the other trees that once flourished here. Sure, it would be so easy to remove it from the photo, but that would destroy the spirits of all those trees. I decided that there was a reason for the tree to be there and be noticed. That tree had survived Wilma and Katrina, Andrew a dozen years earlier, no doubt other hurricanes, and avoided a deadly, nearly always fatal desease. I feel proud to share being in a photo with a tree like that!


Blogger Frank Granovski said...

Now this is getting too philosophical for me, Al. I like the pic and the cropped one ever more. The story is great, also..., but please don't force me to think. It's difficult enough when I grab my SLR and leave the rangefinders at home. The impurest cloud hanging over my head isn't so bad when I'm mirror slapping; it's the guilt.

5:50 AM  
Blogger Todd Frederick Photography said...

It's a toss-up. I like the full frame since it puts the photo into the context of the story. The crop does concentrate on the geometery of you and your shadow. Now then, don't lose your shadow, ya here!

2:09 PM  

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