These two images, having been made just a little over a year ago, are probably closer to toss-backs than full-fledged throw-backs to the archives, but we’ll say that it’s close enough that the judges will give us a pass.
I’m inclined to believe that visual artists suffer from some mutated form of attention deficit disorder. It’s not that we can’t focus and pay attention, but that we can’t stop looking, and so are constantly paying attention. This tends to make us especially sensitive to people, places and things the rest of the world just misses. We’re often so focused, we get lost in the details, and so to the rest of the world we’re walking around with our heads in the clouds (or, perhaps somewhere else the sun isn’t shining..).
We tend to be especially sensitive to the interplay of light, of form, of color and gesture. Once this visual switch is activated within us, it’s rarely switched off. If we’re awake, we’re looking. We have to. It’s what makes us feel alive.
I don’t know if there is a scientific name for this, but I call it “Restless Eye Syndrome”. If this doesn’t cover the process behind an artists visual perception, at least it explains why I often look like I’m bored and not really paying attention. Trust me, I’m not bored. I really, really am paying attention. It just looks like I’m not.
And so it was the day these pictures were made. I was with a group of friends in Charleston, SC, waiting for an Uber to take us to dinner. As we stood in front of the hotel chatting, I couldn’t help but notice the shadows as they were falling along the building across the street. And because the best camera is the one you have with you, I pulled out my iPhone, wandered away from the group and went to work.
I took several photos, zooming in and out, of the various patterns made by the power lines and the buildings architecture when I noticed the young man walking down the street dragging his skateboard behind him. Thinking that if I could get in the right position, I might capture something interesting, I hurriedly positioned myself in what I thought would be the best position, composed the frame, and waited for the young man to enter.
At the same time, I’m scanning up and down the street to make sure no people or vehicles would get in the way of the shot. Nothing ruins an image made on location like a wandering tourist or a wayward vehicle. Fortunately, this time there were neither.
As I stared at the back of my phone analyzing the shot, my reverie was broken by the shouts of my friends calling me to the car. Our driver had arrived and I hadn’t noticed. If I didn’t come now, I would be eating alone. Not wanting to miss neither dinner nor desert, I quickly made my way to the car and jumped in.
One benefit to being tall and having long legs, is that when traveling with a group, I usually get a window seat. This tends to give me the best view of the scenery as we roll by. It also allows me to photograph as we go if I feel so inclined.
Generally, since sitting in a vehicle won’t afford one much opportunity in the way of selecting the best angle of view to photograph, if I take a picture from the car, even if I have one of my other cameras with me, I use my phone so I can use the geo tag to return when I am able to spend the necessary time to make the picture. On that evening, the phone was all I had.
As we pulled up at a traffic light, my attention was again drawn to the shadows and textures highlighted by the sun as it raked the building next to us. Not being able to control the window, I hesitated to take out my phone as I thought it would probably be a waste of time shooting through the glass. But because making a picture is as reflexive as scratching an itch, I pulled out my phone and was able to get off two frames before we pulled away.
Pocketing my phone, I was able to spend the remainder of the evening enjoying the company of my friends and, of course, desert. Feeling that I had a pretty good photo in the first image, I didn’t really look too closely at the second image until several months later. Only after downloading the image to my computer and viewing it on a larger screen did I realize that I had an image that really worked. Who knew? Two keepers within 10 minutes of each other?! Unheard of!
Beyond the lessons on being prepared and paying attention, is a reminder that we should never prejudge our own work. Because I felt fairly certain that the first image really worked, I didn’t even consider looking at the second one very carefully until I stumbled back over it while clearing photos off my phone.
The value of that was recently made especially clear when the second image was juried into the Depth of Field show at The United Arts Council MJH Gallery. The first image was not.
I hope if you’re in the area you’ll be able to stop in and see it. The show runs for another week. Details are on my landing page.