Saturday, October 4, 2008

Reflections on reflections

Thanks to the promptings of my daughters, I have become a Facebook user, and one of the amusing aspects of that is to watch how often my daughters and their friends change their profile photographs, and to what.

For the most part the chosen photos seem to be shot at parties -- frequently with mouths open -- but I recently saw one that I thought was amazing: a young woman who had shot a photo of her own face reflected in the cover of a silver IPOD. I loved it, and told her so.

I really like photographs of reflections, not just because they often have a surprising depth, but also because many of us don't even notice them. And what I realize now, as I slowly work through my photos of Italy, is that although I got wonderful images, the pace we kept throughout our trip forced me to take pictures more as a tourist than as a photographer -- which means I didn't -- or couldn't -- take the time to look for the reflections that usually play such a key role in my work.

This image, shot in a store window across from the Trevi fountain in Rome, is an exception. But that's because it was taken very early in the morning of our first full day in Italy, before the tours began, at a time when I had the luxury of concentrating on my work without being herded away or surrounded by other tourists.

That kind of attention and mindfulness really takes time and concentration, and the pace of our excursions and the high tourist congestion at all the places we stopped meant I had precious little of either. As it was, my husband was always having to bring up the tail end of our tour group, lagging behind and shepherding me and my ever-active camera forward to keep me from getting lost in the crowds.

Apparently, knowing at some level that quality would be compromised by time constraints, I elected to go for quantity, in hopes that with more to choose from more of the shots would have something to offer.

It was probably a wise decision under the circumstances. But as I look up at the Tyler Boley photo that hangs above my desk, I realize he shot it in Lucca -- which we did visit, for all too short a time -- and I never even saw this particular subject. Which makes me sad, because it's an amazing photograph of a peeling painting on the side of a building, framed by two small lampposts and a metal fence, and I've been enjoying it for years now.

Like the reflection above, Tyler's image, a gorgeous black and white print with amazing gradations of grays, is the sort of image you might only see -- let alone photograph -- if you were paying very close attention to your surroundings. And looking at it now, I realize that it has probably been the subliminal inspiration behind all these curious little hidden madonnas I photographed on my trip: clearly his image taught me to watch for that sort of thing.

Which means that he has accomplished two goals with this piece which I hold very dear as I continue down this photographic path: it serves "as a portal to the sacred," which Eckhart Tolle says is the function of all great art, and it, as Robert Bresson once said, " makes visible that which, without you, might not have been seen."

But that's what goals are good for, to keep us striving for excellence. And as my mom used to say, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!." Guess that means I'll have to go back to Italy! (Can't wait!)

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