An Excellent Question

In Film, Inspiration

“Show me your ‘Youest You’ photo” the request to submit asked. Perhaps it was a matter of right question, at the right time, but it wormed its way into my psyche and I found myself considering it whenever I had a little quiet time. In fact, the question struck me so deeply,  I impulsively popped off a quick note to the curator letting her know how much I loved the challenge it presented.

Is there a single thread that runs through what I do? I don’t keep to one media, one format, or one film stock. I shoot the most literal, documentary images and multiple exposure abstractions. Aside from the fact that I don’t do conceptual or directorial photography (and I don’t rule those out, it’s just not part of my repertoire now) I’ll shoot any subject matter from portraits to candids to street to still life to nature. Clearly the message that personal style is cultivated through specialization has fallen on deaf ears with me.

Discerning photographer friends will tell me, occasionally, that they can recognize an image as mine from a line-up, and as pleased as that makes me feel, I am often left wondering how. I don’t really see it in my work. As with so many things, I think it’s much easier to train our perceptions outwards – to cast an objective eye on the work of others – than it is to reflect upon our own photographs without filters of bias and self-doubt. We know what we aimed for, we know where we fell short of our objectives, we know what we saw and felt when we pressed the shutter, and we can’t help but carry all of that mental baggage along as we evaluate our archive of images.

When I think of my collaborators here at Viewfinders, I realize that most of us shoot widely varied subject matter. I’ve grown alongside some of these women as a photographer from my very first attempts to go off auto on a digital point and shoot a decade ago, and I’ve marveled at their development over the years. I can spot their images in a lineup, because there is a current that runs through their work – maybe it’s an intention that has over time shaped their aesthetic. Regardless of the subject matter  I see joie de vivre in Kirsten’s photos, humanity in Laura’s, harmony in Maite’s, love in Audrey’s, hope in Staci’s, and the blessings of the quotidian in Holly’s.

So what about mine? I thought, and I looked, and I set the question aside, and then came back to it and turned it over again, as you would a smooth stone in your pocket. But I didn’t come to a decision, or submit anything. Truth is, despite my best intentions, the deadline would have passed me by without a gentle reminder from that curator, sent, I’m sure, in response to my initial enthusiasm for her challenge.


I settled on the recent photo below from one of our precious few clear, sunny weekend days this summer, titled, Syncopated Rhythm, and what I see in it is my pure wonderment at a serendipitous, momentary instance of order in chaos. I’m drawn to paradox, which isn’t necessarily a visual concept, but I feel a sense of dynamic tension within the frames of the images of which I’m most proud. A visual back and forth, or a sense of movement within the frozen confines of that two dimensional rectangle that aspires to poetry. I don’t know if anyone else would recognize my intention, but the exercise of noodling this question for a few weeks, and coming to an answer has been a very useful, clarifying exercise for me in a fallow, rained-out summer shooting season.

The question, a call to submission, turned out to be a true gift from a friend, so now I pass it on to you. What is your “Youest” photo. If you don’t have an answer right away, no worries. Feel free to think on it a bit, but if you feel like sharing, I would love to see!

Keep your eyes wide open,

Debbie

1 Comment

  1. Ooooo. I’m going to have a think about this one. But I suspect the answer is an overhead image, in summer, in film for me.

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