All of photography is a flattening, and that’s probably true of all memory, perception and expression. I lack a lot of skill in photography — I keep my camera on its auto settings. Though I have professional-grade photo manipulation skills and software, I don’t even crop my snapshots, adjust levels, or even brighten/darken, even in the worst cases. They are what I saw or they are deleted.
I wish I could say that I do this as a way of artistically confining my expression, like a poet choosing meter or a musician using only a single octave and key. I just haven’t learned to see yet. At least, I haven’t learned to see well enough to move on to some other level of expression or moment.
I usually photograph flat surfaces, stuff that is already so close to 2D that I needn’t worry at all about how its light will collapse onto the sensor. I see it, I point the camera at it, and I push a button knowing now that about half the time I get what I see on a tidy SD card. When I started that was less than once in a hundred photo. Yay me!
I’m moving on a bit, but I don’t like it. I love this photo, though. It’s a wall, freshly-painted blue, meeting a sidewalk that was poorly masked. It flattened perfectly, deceptively simply. Only by looking closer is the other dimension apparent. On that unseasonably cold morning, with a head full of hate and a yawning spirit, that is what this wall gave me. A fantastic unfolding world, comforting in its smooth complexity.
I actually spend relatively little time looking down when I walk, even though most of my photographs are taken of low things. Those things on the ground experience a filtering process. They are dropped or discarded. They get broken and crushed. If they are valuable, they get picked up. What remains is free of purpose and meaning. I can give to each thing a meaning free from personal utility or value.
I need to spend more time looking down into myself.
This morning I walked by and counted six. Looking at the first photo, I can see now that there were more than four. The others were just hidden. Looking at this later photo, I can see that there are probably more. I’ve been needing to remind myself that there are these hidden heart hanging up there.
I know that what I see is real, or rather that I really see. What I determine, assume, or conclude about what I see–that’s where I start to loose confident. When I start making statements about what things mean, I get genuinely lost. My ideas get confounded with prejudices and desires.
When it doesn’t matter much, being lost can be fun.
When I see a spoon, I feel safe in knowing it’s a spoon. When I see me reflection stretched on it, I feel at ease knowing that it is a reflection of me. When I imagine that because I am seeing myself stretched in a spoon I should try to see myself reach beyond my usual boundaries, it is just a fun mess.
Most of the inspiration I get from streetfinds can attributed to distraction. I’m thinking about a puzzle or a problem, and am trapping my mind in thinking the same way over and over. Then I start looking around.
Seeing this shoe mark a step on a path in transition helped me realize that what I was thinking about was on a level that would soon end and that I could to step up once and continue, or stand still. The steady climbing I was doing wasn’t going to work.
It’s easy to see things as they aren’t.Â The older I get, the more I find value in being wrong.Â Of course, in most situations it’s important and urgent to be correct, or to withhold opinion.Â Every year, though, these situations seem fewer and fewer.
It’s important to know when to brake while driving and to be right about which end of the knife has a point on it and what to say when you’ve upset someone. On and on. But so much of life isn’t that important at all. My brain makes a gazillion little judgements a day that don’t matter to me or anyone else. That over there is a bottle cap. The lyric of that song is “you’ve been tussled”. My foot itches.
When I walk, I see cars and people and streets and sidewalks. Those are important. Nearly all the rest can be wrongly perceived. I was certain that included photo was a worn decal of a dog running. The idea of a dog running so enthusiastically, the idea of a worn decal, the idea of a decal no longer attached to what it was; all of that was a perfect reply to the what my mind was working on when I saw it. I snapped a picture.
Only then did I realize that it wasn’t a decal. And it still doesn’t matter that I was wrong.
I’m usually underwhelmed by what others intentionally leave behind for passersby to find. I appreciate it, honestly, and normally not just for the intent. The things people do to impress and inspire, particularly in my neighborhood are lovely, lovely acts and so far better than the advertisements that outnumber them by so many. Nonetheless, I usually don’t have the kind of deer-in-the-headlights feeling I get when the trash just clicks.
That being said, an often tagged wall on a burnt out and inexplicably abandoned electrician’s shop was recently the display for two painted canvases, one with a frame. I imagine there might have been more and the better were taken. I saw this one and froze.Â I think there’s a lot going on here that I don’t get, but what nailed it for me was the frame.Â How often do I think about framing something that I leave behind?Â Should I?
I was asked today why I wasn’t promoting nshrine for Memorial Day. It’s a good idea, and were I not on the end of a development cycle and perhaps blinded by trying to come up with longer-term promotion strategies, I might have been ready for the idea. But to be honest with myself, I don’t have the guts.
I believe it when people tell me how much nshrine, and the oracula, have helped them with mourning, grief, and memory and I feel good to help. I also believe abstractly that by reaching out to more people, I help more people. However, I’m stuck with the fear of using others’ grief and loss to my advantage and get torn into inactivity. I suppose this is one of the reasons I’m not making it in business. I don’t see it as a strength of a virtue. It is something I need to overcome.