Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"Let the Light Touch You..."

"Sit quiet for a minute dear,
and feel the wind.
Let the light touch you."
Catherine of Siena

   The first book of photographs, printed in1844, was called "The Pencil of Nature".  Such a lovely metaphor I think. I like to think of the camera (film or memory card) as the "paper" and the light the "pencil".   In this sense, it is Nature who "draws" the photograph.  It would imply a rather passive role for the photographer if it weren't for the fact that it is the photographer who chooses when, where and, most importantly, how the "pencil" touches the "paper".  In the final analysis, however, it is all about the light.

   As a contemplative photographer, metaphors are the bread and butter of our experience as artists.  Light is without doubt the richest of all metaphors.  While it is very true that there would be no photograph without light, it is also true that there would be no contemplative photographer without "enlightenment", without the considered reflection and contemplation of our work.  It illumines our inner landscape just as Nature's light etches the outer landscape we photograph.

   During my travel in France this summer I thought a  lot about "light".  Paris is called the "City of Lights", the birth place of photography some would argue.  I began to study light on all different levels.  I'd discovered the quote above just prior to my departure and it became a kind of mantra during my two week stay. "Let the light touch you...let the light touch you...let the light touch you..."  For me it was a call to take my time, to absorb the reflected as well as the direct light, to dwell in the rich metaphors that surrounded me, and to let the pencil of nature do it's work.

   This photograph was made in Rouen at the site of the martyrdom of Joan of Arc.  I made many photographs of the lovely sculptures I came across.  I'm not exactly sure why but over the years I have come to trust my internal GPS.  It draws me to certain places and I make the images.  Later, I usually find a reason for it.

   The story about this young girl's life and death was deeply moving. Such passion and focus. This image became my photographic icon for the phrase "Let the Light Touch You."  For me, the metaphor of "Light" can also refer to a deep passion for something including a passion for art, or in my case, photography.  Being truly passionate about your chosen field is a great gift...for me it is the "light" of my life.  This tour of Normandy re-enforced my personal passion for contemplative photography and under scored the role it can play on a person's personal journey towards self-understanding.  Even in the rushed days of traveling with friends who had other agendas, I still managed to make photographs that had deep personal meaning for me.  In the weeks to come, as I reflect upon these images, I will remember the story of this young girl who never wavered, even for a minute, from the path she set out on even when adversity challenged her every move. Oh, that I could be that steadfast in my humble pursuits!

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