We must remember that a photograph
can hold just as much as we put into it,
and no one has ever approached the
full possibilities of the medium.
— Ansel Adams
A picture, any picture, can contain as much as we can put into it. This quote from Ansel Adams, referring specifically to photographs suggests that most photographers don’t try very hard to invest their images with as much content as is possible. Having tripped the shutter a great many times I agree completely, but I don’t think it’s just images that can contain more than we put into them. Life too can contain more than many of us put into it.
Don’t get me wrong — I am not talking about a life spent in frantic activity, a life in which one is constantly on the go — although for some people that might be what it means. Instead I’m thinking about the fact that staying “in the moment” is one way in which we can absorb a lot more of what life has to offer than many of us do.
I have long loved this candid shot of three young children in the Louvre museum. Their teacher sat them down in front of the sculpture of St. George slaying the dragon (who looks a lot like a crocadile). Their task — to draw something about what they saw.
In the way of children they “saw” very different things than what the object in front of them looked like. I don’t know if they took away as much from that morning’s exercise as I did. I hope so. How we approach life can make such a huge difference! What we see, and what we respond to — which is to say, what we put into our personal picture — is all the world to us.
So much depends on what we want to say. We can take a life and express a lot through it. We can express a little through it. We can pick and choose the details we wish to emphasize: whether the reality, the symbol, the shape, or the symmetry.
Sometimes we reduce content, other times we highlight it. Skin is skin one might be tempted to say, but filtering for the colors we see can reveal something we think we know quite well as something very much other.
Then again sometimes the content isn’t about anything other than personal choice. How does an experience hit us? To what do we choose to react?
I noticed an article in my news feed recently about manta rays… You know… those fish like critters with big wings. It turns out that they can recognize themselves in a mirror. Self-Awareness — it’s test scientists have used for a good while in determining which creatures we “dare” conduct experiments upon for the sake of testing new drugs, etc.. It turns out that mantas are a good deal more intelligent than we ever thought; and that raises the question once again about which creatures we should be causing pain, and whether they are aware that they are being tortured.
I now that manta rays are “just” another fish to many of us. Specially when we consider that we (our government) tortures humans — waterboarding and many other tactics — so if we are so calloused about other humans how can we possibly be worried about ‘mere’ animals. But then 50 years ago in this country we had not yet done away with lynching blacks. Progress sometimes feels rapid, but in the ways that matter most progress can be maddeningly slow.
As a species we are deciding what goes into our picture of the world around us. How do we treat the other species on this planet? How do we treat the planet itself? It is just as much a decision of conscious choice for us as a species as it is for us as individuals, or for us as a nation. What is going into YOUR picture of the world?