I've never been a visually talented person. Like everything else, it has come with practice. Growing up, I was a wordsmith, I could take words, stretch and bend them like taffy, mould them to my will, make them do unspeakable and unnatural things, give them strange meanings, spin my way out of trouble with a tidal wave of words.
The written word was perhaps my most potent weapon, but I was never a visual person. And I never quite understood cameras. Technically, I was quite impressed, don’t get me wrong, but I much preferred to look, to see. That was where my interest lay. Who needed Cameras, after all, when you had eyes?
I always appreciated beautiful photographs, don't get me wrong. I just never understood how I could do something like that. I always thought it was the kind of thing that one needed innate skill to do. There were two classes of people, those whose cameras had eyes, and those whose cameras were blind. I would see things in my mind’s eye, but when I took a photo of it, it never looked or felt quite the same. And so, I was resigned to merely seeing beauty, but being doomed to never capture it.
I saw beauty, but I revelled in its transience. I appreciated it for its temporary nature, and I thought “if these moments are lost, if they fade, like tears in rain, I will remember them, and is that not enough?”
And all along the way, I was convinced that I suffered Camera Obscura and could never capture a moment, beautiful and pure for all eternity.
But I was wrong. No one ever really captures a moment and that is certainly not the point of photography. It isn't about imposing yourself on the world. Instead, I think it is the opposite. Moments capture us. The world imposes itself on you. You open your eyes wide, and see something you had never seen before or you see something you’d seen a million times in an entirely different way and it moves you in ways you never thought possible.
My first few attempts were poor, to be generous. There was no heart behind it. I was capturing moments, but I had not yet been captured. The trick that focused my mind was to pair each photo with a small stanza, a small verse that captured how I felt at that moment in time. And so, I found the human element in what had once been a sterile and barren exercise.
I had found my oasis. A stillness, a calm amid a bustling world. It’s almost quaint in such our mad world to be forced to slow down, to take a deep breath, to steady the mind, the hand, the eye, and in between breaths, at that perfect moment to allow yourself to be captured.
Even if we try to capture the moment itself, it will be incorporeal, like dust in the wind, but how it made us feel, that, we can trap in a digital box. The moment itself may be lost, but the feeling of being in it will last forever because we have a small piece of something that can transport us back to that moment where it can recapture us anew and anew and anew.
And we can share that feeling with others - how beautiful is that. A language we can all understand, a beauty we can all appreciate. Something we can all slow down and enjoy, even if only for a fleeting moment.
I'm still not visually talented. Though there are some who are, I don’t think it’s necessary because we all have the potential for sharing the beauty we see. Like everything else, the only way to hone that ability is to keep at it, to practice. Someone once said, your first 10,000 shots are your worst, so it’s best to get them out of the way. But even those first worst 10,000 can be something special.
No one ever got better at anything by doing less of it. There’s beauty all around us. Nothing is ordinary. We all see it, we all know it, and we can all be captured by those ordinary extraordinary moments.