A million blemishes…a hundred thousand flaws…five hundred imperfections create a solitude of beauty.
As time passes things get old, rot, decay and wither away from exposure, wear and tear, nature and the fury of mankind. This fury creates what I call blemished beauty.
As a photographer it’s rare I seek out the shiny and new, the smooth and soft. I get excited to find an image that speaks to me, and tells me a story. It only takes a few minutes and sometimes (on rare occasions) a few seconds to get a reaction from me. Very often I find a location that shows a subject that is just, albeit barely showing decay and degradation of structure, just enough to show signs of stress or wear. That is the beginning of the story for me.
Often when I am shooting subjects in the wild (not really the wild safari, but in the outdoors) I catch myself wondering whether what I am taking photos of has been torn, bent, crushed or smashed by humans or nature. Its not a puzzle and its not something I spend a great deal of time thinking about, I just ponder it then move on. What strikes me in life is that when a catastrophic nature event happens it is usually more destructive that human hands can cause, except in war. But in daily life I see that the single most destructive force we experience is human beings.
We are our own worst destroyers of life, liberty and environment. Recounting how short life is for some people I’ve known is truly humbling. I once read an interesting perspective (heavily paraphrased of course). If you are 2 years old then one year accounts for half of your life. If you are 45 then one year accounts for 1/45th of your life, and that passes by like a gnat on a breezy day. You don’t really miss it, because it’s too far gone and if uneventful was really nothing important.
So greeting each photo opportunity like it’s a fleeting moment of my life treats me to a world unknown to most. Where rust and rot begin, starts a beautiful photography relationship for me. I find great challenge in seeing what no one else has seen, or at least in the state I see it at that time. I truly believe that is why many photographers I follow seek travel to places that are still untouched and unmolested by human hands that still exist on earth. That is what I also believe great photographers like Ansel Adams and Annie Leibovitz have done for us. They see unique and fleeting opportunity in subject matter. Like the reflection in a puddle, lake or stream or a cloud structure. Once you see it there is not another instance of it ever again.
“Nature is so powerful, so strong. Capturing its essence is not easy – your work becomes a dance with light and the weather. It takes you to a place within yourself.”
When I talk to young (and not so young) and new photographers I tell them to just start taking photos of everything that they find interesting. Back in the day with metal plates and even film it was expensive to do that, and took great research, study, note taking and understanding of how subject matter speaks to you.
To me it was the ability to quickly tune out distractions and find a story or a subject that talks to me rather than do what others think I should shoot photos of. Of course if you are hired to take photos that is a different story all together, because you are there to take photos of subjects someone wants you to take photos of.
I don’t call myself a world traveler, but I have been a few places around the world and it has never disappointed. Sometimes my own backyard reveals great surprise and delivers when nothing else will do. I don’t really want people to see what I see, but to see what they see by seeking the odd angle, and the ultra-weird perspective and view. I truly believe that when I find an image that talks to me it’s like finding a new lease on life (so to speak) and not that it extends my life, but more like it adds to the completion of life.
I can’t count on one hand the number of people that have seen the things I have seen, and it’s the same for you and everyone else, you just have to be willing to spend the time, make the trek, and listen to your brain’s eyes. Find the blemishes and the uncharted images with millions of flaws.
When I first started taking photos I was in such hurry to get photos of everything I saw that most of them were blurry or ill composed. Illcomposory, I like that word. Sometimes you have to sit down with yourself and ask, do these photos resonate in my mind? Do they speak to me in the night? I wake up sometimes in the middle of the night with searing, burning annoying visions of again going through the daily drudgery of not being able to go out and take photos. Because fellow photogs, at this point in my life photography does not yet pay the bills, and it may never, but one thing is for sure it pays the inner costs of curiosity, passion, seeking of unknown treasures. It pays me very handsomely.
When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.
Telling the story of the unwanted, unneeded, unnecessary is out there waiting for you. You will know it when you see it, hear it, smell it and feel it. Don’t wait, go listen, go watch. Don’t forget to count the blemishes!