Mar 132012
 

Reversing flow of playI originally got into photography by taking pictures of my son’s soccer team – partially therapy, it forced me to behave along the sidelines–I’m not a helpful cheerleader; and partially recognizing and celebrating the roles of each youth on the team, of course, starting with my son. At that point I’d burn through one to two rolls a game and maybe salvage 10 photos. It helped me stay out of the way and still be of some use.

Leaf sailboatMore recently, I’ve just become fascinated by how photography has made me see differently, notice things differently, recognize bits of wonder in the most mundane places. There’s a lake near our apartment, and the first bird we saw after moving in was a Great Blue Heron. One shot led to another, and I’ve learned to recognize by name nearly 40 varieties of water fowl and song birds, many by sound as well as sight. All by virtue of watching for that one moment when each subject did something that I associated with personality. Or when a different flock passed through depending on the season or weather conditions. Or when a leaf gently settles upon the surface of the lake and is tranformed into a sailboat tracing the breath of the wind.

Paper wasps nestAnd then I began to realize that many, or even most, of the subjects of my photos don’t exist any more and never will, at least in the circumstances or surroundings in which I captured them. For example the dozen ducklings that steadily dwindled in number daily (and later catching the culprit, a feral cat); the 18-inch paper wasp nest I discovered just 10 feet off the board walk separating the well-kept lawn from the wildlife preserve. Gone, melted away. Completely.

Now, even without my camera, I’m seeing “great pictures” everywhere, and hearing familiar bird song in unexpected neighborhoods and parks (“I know who that is!”).

So for me, photography has become a way of learning how to see, and to a certain extent, listen again, and to want to capture at least a few moments to share with others about the wonder that is nestled in the very midst of daily lives.

Digital technology virtually eliminates the expense of time and resources from image capture to sharing. So for me, photography has become a gateway to being present, and an invitation to others to be present. Frankly, I’m not that good, but good enough often enough to keep me looking and expecting to see something new that may have been right before my eyes to begin with.

Mar 122012
 
Learning to see in other languages

“I don’t want to die having only seen through English eyes.” That’s The Atlantic journalist, and leading national blogger, Ta-Nehisi Coates reflecting on his motivation for learning French. This type of observation is why I keep his blog at the top of my daily reading list — he combines a sheer fascination with language (he […]

Feb 222012
 
The Blessings of Babel

I’ve realized that I haven’t made a sufficient linkage between my recent fascination with photography, particularly photos of nature, with the overall framework of this blog, Patterns of Engagement, which so clearly focuses on social interaction. What, for example, does a photograph of an eagle stretching its wings have to do with cultivating the civic […]