Sunday, April 21, 2013

In Search of Silence....

The Silence of Inner Worlds
   Many photographers use a thematic approach to their camera work; at least part of the time.  They even become known for specific subject matter.  Ansel Adams had Yosemite and Alfred Stieglitz had O'Keeffe's hands and his "equivalents".  I wondered recently what mine might be.  I think I would say "Silence". By silence I mean that hushed image; one that seems to be holding its breath.

   Silence, photographically speaking, is not merely the absence of compositional "noise" but a deeply personal place of in-dwelling. It draws the viewer in and the mind can rest inside the edges of the photograph.  For me, it is a sanctuary where I feel most profoundly the sense of place, wherever I am.  In this photograph I was in Boston, Massachusetts.  Boston is a rich, dynamic city pulsating with life but I was still able to find a place of silence in the empty room just visible behind the ornate facade.  Made late in the day, with long shadows emphasizing the rich and varied texture of the building, this space within the space created the sense of silence I was looking for in that busy city.   Given the chaotic nature of our world today, these centers of silence become all the more important; at least for me.

   The words "silent" and "listen" have the same letters, simply re-arranged.  This is certainly something to contemplate.  To seek out silence we must first be able to sit back and wait for the place in which we are photographing to communicate its hidden, less obvious nature to us.  Boston can be viewed and hence photographed with all its vibrant interactions and "busyness" or one can go in search of its places of "stillness".  I seek out these counterpoints.  We can't hear those muffled messages if we are rattling on with our own agenda.   It is a very difficult thing to do, to clear ones mind and  just listen. I struggle with it all the time but I have found that whenever I am able to do it, to just sit still and truly listen to the landscape, I always find what I most dearly wish to record in my images...the essence of silence.

(This entry was written a few weeks ago but after my 5 days at the Abbey of Gethsemani,  it is even more personally poignant.  The retreat house and many areas of the abbey have signs that read, "Silence is spoken here".  It was wonderful to be surrounded by such a pregnant silence.  Full of thoughts and energy but no spoken words.  It is something I plan to take back with me at the end of this leave room in each day for silence.)

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