the photoshooter's journey from taking to making

Posts tagged “poetry

EITHER / OR, EITHER WAY

By MICHAEL PERKINS

 

CERTAINLY, PHOTOGRAPHY IS PARTLY ABOUT LIGHT, AND EQUIPMENT, AND TECHNICAL MASTERY. However, after all those means are applied, the only determinant of the ends of all our energies comes from human choices. Arguments within the mind of the photographer about what “belongs” in a picture. How to convince the viewer that it belongs. How to apply all the means to make that information compelling, or universal.

It’s knowing what to say “yes” to, but, just as crucially, it’s about being able to say no to every other option, and being prepared to live with your decision. Of course, deciding what to put in an image is not, literally, a matter of life and death, as a choice of career, mate, or philosophy might be, but it is a very visual demonstration of what choice entails. Because, when you choose something, in a picture or in a life path, you automatically unchoose everything else. There is no way, in art in life in general, to have it all.

But better voices, voices far wiser than mine, have already spoken brilliantly of this process. One, in particular, has been considered by many to be the final word on the subject, so today it serves as my own picture’s caption:

Robert Frost / The Road Not Taken 
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Make good choices. Make your choices.
Take the path. Take the picture. 

 


OUT ON THE EDGE OF NEXT

“…come on out and make romance”

By MICHAEL PERKINS

PHOTOGRAPHERS KNOW THAT THE NIGHT HOLDS A SPECIAL POTENTIAL FOR ACTION, a condition mysteriously distinct from that of daytime. Yes, we all know that there is, technically, nothing in our after-dark scenes that wasn’t there in the light (isn’t that what we tell anxious kids as we tuck them in?), but all the same, the shadows seem to, in a sense, withhold information, or at least re-shape it somehow. A conversation from the day becomes, in the night, slightly conspiratorial. Colors that register as merely garish in the day can become threatening in the shadows of evening. And photographers aren’t the only artists who sense this transformation. Poets, painters, songwriters….all take careful measure of the two worlds defined by the day/night demarcation, all taking note that light, or its absence, is more than mere atmosphere, but also mood, even intention.

In recent days, as I tumble all this over in my mind, I’ve been reviewing a whole series of night shots that I believe have a particular flavor that they may not have had, were they shot during the day. I’ve also been running a musical playlist of songs that seek to capture this same strange phenomenon. Rock ‘n’ roll, with its special emphasis on the restless and rambling impulses of youth, is strongest when it comes to characterizing that urge to move, to discover, to dare or rebel. You will no doubt have songs that you believe best frame these feelings. Some are simple, others more ornate, but, for my money, none come close to the compact, precise, and emotionally direct language of Van Morrison’s Wild Night. Regard for a moment, if you will, the random carnival shot above, and sink yourself into Morrison’s unique invitation to join the ranks of a special kind of shadowy wanderer:

As you brush your shoes, stand before the mirror
And you comb your hair, grab your coat and hat
And you walk, wet streets tryin’ to remember
All the wild night breezes in your mem’ry ever

And ev’rything looks so complete when you’re walkin’ out on the street
And the wind catches your feet, sends you flyin’, cryin’

Ooo-woo-wee!
Wild night is calling
Oooo-ooo-wee!
Wild night is calling

And all the girls walk by, dressed up for each other
And the boys do the boogie-woogie on the corner of the street
And the people, passin’ by stare in wild wonder
And the inside juke-box roars out just like thunder

And ev’rything looks so complete when you’re walkin’ out on the street
And the wind catches your feet
And sends you flyin’, cryin’

Woo-woo-wee!
Wild night is calling
Ooo-ooo-wee!
Wild night is calling, alright

The wild night is calling
The wild night is calling

Come on out and dance
Whoa, come on out and make romance

c) 1971 WB Music. Corp / Caledonia Soul Music (ASCAP). All rights reserved.

 

Anticipation. Experimentation. Potential. Mystery.

The wild night is calling, and sending images racing into hearts.

And cameras.

Come on out and make romance.

 

 


REMAINS

 

By MICHAEL PERKINS

BIRTHDAYS. Glibly speaking, ya can’t live without ’em.

Thing is, after a while they don’t come alone. More and more, they show up accompanied by echoes. Ghosts. Remains and remnants. And the guest lists of Things That Were that trundle alongside all those birthdays often focus on buildings, structures that are barometers of where we started out and where we wound up.

The image above was taken within days of this year’s natal anniversary, and put me in mind of one of the most eloquent musings ever on the subject of loss from singersongwriter Judy CollinsLooking at this sad, sagging house, I could clearly hear her singing:

My grandmother’s house is still there, but it isn’t the same

A plain wooden cottage, a patch of brown lawn

And a fence that hangs standing and sighing in the Seattle rain

I drive by with strangers and wish they could see what I see

A tangle of summer birds flying in sunlight

A forest of lilies, an orchard of apricot trees

Secret gardens of the heart

Where the flowers bloom forever

I see you shining through the night

In the ice and snow of winter