Friday, October 26, 2007

Diving into Art

Yesterday I had a bit of time between appointments, so I stopped by the Gallery to see how the current exhibit was doing. The staff were arranging some lovely glass bowls in a cupboard, sorting them by color, and the result was so pleasing that when I walked in they asked me to photograph it.

My camera does not do particularly well in interiors, so the photos I took were somewhat less than pleasing, and certainly not as appealing as the rows of colored glass bowls. But it's rare that I get to be in a gallery -- any gallery -- with permission to use my camera, so I began wandering around, looking to see if there were other photographs in the making.

The gallery is a lovely place: the creativity and rich colors of the displays and the merchandise, the careful attention paid to reflections and groupings are most satisfying to the eye, so it was a pleasure to look at everything from the photographer's perspective rather than the artist or shopper's perspective.

The image that most determinedly caught my eye was this one, shot in the corner of the exhibit room. I love that the colors of glass reflect the colors of the artworks above (the left of which is one of my pieces). But what I really love is the swimmer, poised as if to dive into the watery realms of the paintings above.

Even more intriguing to me are the shadows she casts upon the wall behind her. From this perspective the swimmer herself looks exultant, rather like a gymnast who has just executed a particularly succesful landing; it is the shadow that conveys the sense of preparation before a dive. But both the swimmer and her shadow have an openness, an acceptance, a radiant willingness to receive what the world has to offer that I find both charming and challenging. And, given that her physique is not unlike my own, I am doubly curious about what she might be saying to me.

But rather than list here the conclusions I could draw, it seems more important to let this photograph speak its own language to other viewers. The challenge of being both a writer and a photographer is that I am tempted too often to explain and to verbalize. But most of the people who wanted copies of those meditations I was doing all last year wanted copies of the photographs WITHOUT the words: the photographs spoke loudly enough to them that the words became extraneous, a distraction.

Having been a writer most of my life and a photographer for only 11 years, it's hard sometimes for me to step aside and have the confidence to let the photos speak for themselves. And it's hard sometimes to give myself permission to do that: is there something that NEEDS to be said here? Is it my responsibility to say it? It's rather like being a parent -- when do we control, and when is it important to back off and let our children discover for themselves?

So there. Without telling you what I learn from this photo, I can nonetheless explore the questions that it raises. For you there may be different questions, and vastly different answers. Enjoy!

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