Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A richness in simplicity

I remember learning as a child that white light is actually a combination of all the colors. It was something I learned; something I got intellectually, but never quite understood.

So as I spent time with this image this morning I realized that I have come to understand that aspect of white-as-multi-colored at a sort of subconscious level as a photographer. Because what I photographed in this lovely Boulder restaurant on Pearl Street was fairly stark and simple: just white umbrellas and white bamboo against a mirror framed by a white wall. What I saw, when I walked in that evening, was white on white with touches of black for some intriguing contrasts

But what I got, especially after enriching the saturation just a bit, were all these lovely blues and yellows, with just a hint of magenta, lime and cyan around the edges to enliven the image. The camera was able to see what my eye could not, because my eyes have been conditioned to see only what was actually, originally, created to be a white on white environment.

Which is real, I wonder? The white on white you see in "real life" -- and in the photo on the Kasa restaurant website -- or the rich depth of color you see here? And does it matter? Do I need to know that white is actually rich with color? Or do I just need to trust that some color will always emerge with a little coaxing?

I think this is another case where we get in the habit of seeing what we expect to see -- whether in life, or in a restaurant, or in a spouse or parents or children or friends or situations... We are primed to some extent by pre-existing conditions or experiences to see certain things in a certain way. It can take a bit of a jolt sometimes -- a move, a shift, a sudden shock -- to help us see in a different way, or to see the richness that may lie beneath a relatively monotonic or bland surface. And I do believe that the more we pare down our lives, removing the unnecessary possessions and activities -- the simpler those lives begin to appear from the outside -- the richer the textures and colors are that will emerge as we pay more attention to that which remains.

It reminds me of a story I used to read aloud to children back when I was a librarian, about a farmer who went to a rabbi to complain that his wife and children were too noisy, and he needed peace and quiet. The rabbi suggested he bring his cows into the house. And when the man complained again, the rabbi suggested he bring in his goats. When the main complained again, the rabbi suggested adding the chickens. And when at last the man was tearing his hair out, the rabbi had him remove the chickens, goats and cows -- and then the man was thrilled with all the peace and quiet.

For some reason this makes me think of that Shakespeare quotation from Macbeth: "Nothing in his life became him like the leaving of it." So what have you been adding over these last few years? And what might you take away? And would might be more appealing in its absence than its presence?

1 comment:

Joyce Wycoff said...

Wow, Diane ... I never saw the mirror! I have the umbrellas but your image is incredible!

Love the Rabbi story.